Pierre Salinger Dies
Pierre Salinger, who served as President John F. Kennedy’s press secretary and later had a long career with ABC News, has died at a hospital in southern France. He was 79.
Salinger died Saturday from heart failure following surgery last week at a hospital in Cavaillon to implant a pacemaker, his wife, Nicole “Poppy” Salinger, told The Associated Press Sunday in a telephone interview.
Mrs. Salinger, spoke from Le Thon, near Avignon in the Provence region, where the couple moved four years ago to run a bed-and-breakfast inn. She said her husband decided to move to France because he was so deeply opposed to the presidency of George W. Bush. “He was very upset because he thought Bush was not fit to be president. He said he would leave if Bush became president and he did,” Mrs. Salinger said. He did the same in 1968 after the assassination of Robert Kennedy, she said. “He said, ‘They’re killing all the Kennedys, and he left,” she said.
The cultured and outspoken Salinger rose from the ranks of newspaper journalism to become press secretary to John F. Kennedy and eventually a trusted member of the family’s inner circle. He and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis stayed in contact for many years following her husband’s assassination, Mrs. Salinger said. Salinger, who also served as press secretary for President Lyndon Johnson, said Kennedy was a “special man” who surrounded himself with advisers who “believed in each other” and in a common mission. “There was no barrier on the president’s door,” Salinger wrote in McCall’s magazine in 1988. “Any of his dozen principal staffers could see him when they wanted to. They didn’t need permission from a chief of staff to gain access.”
A longtime print journalist, Salinger switched to television reporting when he joined ABC in 1977. In the years following he worked as the network’s Paris bureau chief, chief foreign correspondent and senior editor in London. He had left the network by 1997, when he became a prominent backer of the theory that TWA Flight 800, which crashed off Long Island in 1996 on a flight to Paris, was accidentally brought down by a Navy missile. Salinger had said at the time that a government document showed the Navy was testing missiles off the coast of New York and had been told planes would be flying higher than 21,000 feet. The Navy was unaware that Flight 800 was flying at 13,000 feet because another commercial plane was flying above it, he said. The National Transportation Safety Board found no evidence of a missile strike. It concluded that Flight 800 was destroyed by a center fuel tank explosion, probably caused by a spark from a short-circuit in the wiring that ignited vapors in the tank.
I seem to remember Salinger as a reasonable journalist at one point, although that may have just been youthful naivete on my part. He has long been on the lunatic fringe, though. I find it amusing that someone who flacked for Lyndon Johnson would think George W. Bush unfit for the presidency, although he at least had the courage of his idiotic convictions and moved, appropriately enough, to France.