Out of 15 U.S. presidents targeted for assassination (that we know of), four were successful. No matter who the “leader of the free world” is, he or she will always have haters. While assassins were successful targeting Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy, here are 12 attempts you may know little about:
1. Andrew Jackson
Richard Lawrence ambushed Andrew Jackson in front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Lawrence shot at him, but his gun misfired. Infuriated, the 67-year-old Jackson proceeded to club him with his old hickory cane. Lawrence pulled a second pistol, and it too misfired. Jackson beat Lawrence senseless until his aides wrestled Lawrence away.
2. Theodore Roosevelt
John Flammang Schrank shot President Roosevelt during a speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 14, 1912. Roosevelt continued to give his speech after being shot, even joking about it where at one point he said:
Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet — there is where the bullet went through — and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best. — Theodore Roosevelt, Address at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 14, 1912
Roosevelt lived with the bullet in him for the rest of his life. Schrank claimed the ghost of William McKinley told him to shoot the President; doctors found him insane.
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Italian immigrant Giuseppe Zangara attempted to assassinate President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 15, 1933, during an impromptu speech in Miami, Florida. Five people were hit, including Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, who later succumbed to his wounds. On the way to the hospital, Cermak allegedly told Roosevelt, “I’m glad it was me instead of you,” which was later inscribed on his tombstone plaque. Some speculated it was a mob hit on the mayor and not Roosevelt.
“I have the gun in my hand,” confessed Zangara in the Dade County Courthouse jail. “I kill kings and presidents first and next all capitalists.” He was sentenced to death by Circuit Court Judge Uly Thompson.
4. Harry S. Truman
Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola — two supporters of the Puerto Rican independence movement — tried to assassinate President Truman while he was napping on the second floor of the Blair House. Truman was staying at the Blair House while the White House was undergoing renovation. The would-be assassins saw their opportunity because unlike the White House, the Blair House was less secure.
In what was described as “the biggest gunfight in Secret Service history”—27 shots fired over 40 seconds—Terresola and a police officer were killed. Collazo was sentenced to death, which President Truman later commuted to a life sentence.
5. Richard Nixon
Samuel Byck attempted to assassinate Nixon on February 22, 1974, by hijacking a plane in hopes of crashing it into the White House while the President was there. Byck carried out his plan with .22 caliber revolver he stole from his friend and a suitcase bomb. His plan was foiled, and the plane never left the Baltimore/Washington International Airport gate. He killed a police officer and committed suicide in the process.
6. Gerald Ford
President Ford had two attempts on his life by two women in California in the same month. One by Charles Manson follower Lynette Fromme, who fired a pistol at him in a crowd in Sacramento on September 5, 1975. The second attempt was by Sara Jane Moore in San Francisco on September 22, 1975 — just 17 days after Fromme. Both women were sentenced to life in prison.
7. Jimmy Carter
The Secret Service arrested Raymond Lee Harvey ten minutes before President Carter gave a speech at the Civic Center Mall in Los Angeles on May 5, 1979. The Ohio-born drifter was caught with a starter pistol and blank rounds. Although he had a history of mental illness, the police investigated his claims of being part of a four-man operation to assassinate the president. Charges against Harvey were dropped for insufficient of evidence.
8. Ronald Reagan
John Hinckley Jr. Photo: By United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI Field Office Washington) [Public domain]. Ronal Reagan (US president photo: Executive Office of the President of the United States).John Hinckley Jr. shot President Reagan outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., on March 30, 1981. He fired six shots from his .22 caliber revolver wounding the president and three others. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity on June 21. He said the assassination attempt was a love offering to actress Jodie Foster.
Reagan famously joked about it with one-liners to keep the country’s spirits up. “Please tell me you’re Republicans,” he said to the surgeons when he entered the operating room. To an attentive nurse, he said, “does Nancy know about us?”
9. George H.W. Bush
Three months after President Bush left office, Kuwaiti officials foiled a 16-man assassination ring led by the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The perpetrators planned to assassinate President Bush with a car bomb during a speaking engagement at the Kuwait University.
President Clinton responded in kind with 23 Tomahawk missiles against the Iraqi Intelligence Service headquarters building in Baghdad. In a televised address to the nation, he ordered the attack to convey three messages, “We will combat terrorism. We will deter aggression. We will protect our people.”
10. Bill Clinton
Osama bin Laden came close to assassinating President Clinton with a car bomb in the Philippines in 1996. Intelligence agents picked up on the plot via a choppy transmission with the words “bridge” and “wedding” — a terrorist code word for assassination, reported the Telegraph.
The secret service averted the scheme by re-routing the presidential motorcade away from the bridge containing the bomb.
11. George W. Bush
Robert Pickett — a former Internal Revenue Service accountant — fired his handgun at the White House while President Bush was inside. He was shot in the knee and arrested by secret service agents. Pickett was sentenced to three years in prison.
12. Barack Obama
Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez fired his rifle at the White House. The 21-year-old claimed to be the second coming of Christ, and that Obama was the devil. He talked about Nostradamus and receiving a “message through time.” Ortega-Hernandez was sentenced to 25 years in prison.