Pierre Salinger Dies

Former ABC newsman Salinger dies (CNN)

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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Salinger has long been a hero of mine, though we did part company when he decided to abandon the US and move to France. While I applaud his conviction, I disagree with his leaving. Myself, I’ll stay and fight the good fight. I believe he was correct and George Bush is unfit for command. I’ll be casting my vote for John Kerry come the day. Differences or no, I believe the world has lost a fine and educated journalist. And all you need do is read today’s papers or watch today’s TV news to know there aren’t many left like him. Rest in peace Mr. Salinger. I’ll stick around awhile and keep the faith.

  2. fouad saad says:

    It’s people like Mr.Salinger that give hope to millions around the world who suffer from the savagery of powerful nations’ foreign policies.Thanks to his high intellect and courage Mr.Salinger was able to serve the courageous 35th American President.I have learned immensely from reading his autobiography “PS: A Memoir”.I hope he has found peace.