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RFK: Aftermath of an assassination

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Three days after U.S. presidential candidate Robert Kennedy is shot in Los Angeles, CBC Radio's Sunday Morning Magazine broadcasts a special report on the impact of the tragedy. Beginning with an emotional excerpt from his brother Edward's eulogy, this 1968 report discusses the career and the death of Robert Kennedy as well as the increasing violence affecting America. Coming just two months after the murder of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and five years removed from the slaying of president John F. Kennedy, this latest assassination provokes difficult questions for a grieving nation.
• Robert Francis Kennedy was shot at 12:15 a.m. Pacific time on June 5, 1968. He was not killed immediately, but was conscious and speaking for a short time afterward. He fell into a coma before reaching a nearby hospital and he died at 1:44 a.m. the next day.

• Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles, just after giving a speech at the Ambassador Hotel. He was exiting the hotel through the kitchen, greeting well-wishers. Just before he was shot, he shook hands with busboy Juan Romero, who is kneeling my Kennedy's body in a famous photograph taken just after the shots. As he lay wounded on the kitchen floor, Kennedy asked Romero, "Is everybody safe, OK?"

• Kennedy's assassin was a 24-year-old Palestinian named Sirhan Bishara Sirhan who was angry with Kennedy's pro-Israeli stance during the Six-Day War of June 1967. Sirhan was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1969, but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1972.

• In his eulogy for his brother Robert, Edward Kennedy quotes him by saying, "Some men see things as they are and say 'Why?' I dream things that never were and say, 'Why not?'" This quote is originally attributed to playwright George Bernard Shaw. Robert Kennedy repeated the line frequently during his 1968 campaign.

• In this clip, Reverend A. Kendall Smith asks why assassins only strike "friends of the poor and the blacks," like the Kennedys or Malcolm X, and why Ronald Reagan or George Wallace, among others, are never struck. George Wallace, the democratic governor of Alabama, was shot four years after this clip and, while he survived, was paralysed for life. Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981, during his first term as president, but also survived.

• Arthur Bremer, Wallace's would-be assassin, kept a diary of thoughts and plans for the shooting that was later published and served as inspiration for the film Taxi Driver. That film indirectly inspired John Hinckley Jr., to shoot Reagan in 1981. Hinckley had become obsessed with Taxi Driver co-star Jodie Foster and planned to kill Reagan to gain her attention.

• After the murder of Robert Kennedy, U.S. Congress extended the mandate of the Secret Service to include protection of presidential candidates.

• As with his slain brother John, there are several conspiracy theories regarding Robert Kennedy's killing. In both cases there are theories about multiple gunmen and questions over exactly how many shots were fired, although only one gunman was arrested in each killing and federal investigative inquiries have dismissed claims of multiple shooters.

• James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968 was finally arrested on June 8th of that year, one day before this broadcast.

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning Magazine
Broadcast Date: June 9, 1968
Guests: Richard James Cushing , Edward Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Arthur Schlesinger, A. Kendall Smith
Host: John O'Leary, Bill Paul
Reporter: Gordon Donaldson, Michael Maclear
Duration: 15:12
This clip was edited for copyright reasons.
Photo: Senator Robert Kennedy lies on the floor of the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles moments after he was shot June 5, 1968. Photo by Boris Yaro, Los Angeles Times/Associated Press.

Last updated: June 6, 2013

Page consulted on June 10, 2014

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