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A Definitive Ranking Of Every Presidential Assassination Attempt

If we weren't fascinated by assassins, Neil Patrick Harris wouldn't have played one in a Stephen Sondheim play, would he?

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Everyone's seen the Zapruder film of JFK's assassination and we all know about Lincoln's fateful night at the theatre, but just because they succeeded are those the most insane attempts that have ever been made on a President's life? If you think every wannabe John Wilkes Booth concocted a byzantine plot to murder a President... you'd be very wrong. Not all Presidential assassination attempts are created equal.

24. Bill Clinton - Three Attempts in 1994, One in 1996

For a President whose scandal will be a part of history forever, the attempts on Bill Clinton's life were all pretty mundane and not even worth separate rankings. On September 12, 1994 a man flew a stolen Cessna onto the White House lawn so he could crash into the building. He crashed into a tree instead. On October 29, 1994 Francisco Martin Duran shot up the White House lawn HOPING one of the men would be Clinton. And then on January 21, 1994 retired military officer Ronald Barbour planned to kill Clinton while he was jogging. He didn't succeeded. And then he ended up arrested and shaded by the New York Times when they referred to him as "Unemployed Man."The only interesting attempt on Clinton's life was a planted bomb under a bridge, but Secret Service diverted him away from the bridge. Foiling the lame plot of a little known terrorist named Osama bin Laden.
New York Times

For a President whose scandal will be a part of history forever, the attempts on Bill Clinton's life were all pretty mundane and not even worth separate rankings. On September 12, 1994 a man flew a stolen Cessna onto the White House lawn so he could crash into the building. He crashed into a tree instead. On October 29, 1994 Francisco Martin Duran shot up the White House lawn HOPING one of the men would be Clinton. And then on January 21, 1994 retired military officer Ronald Barbour planned to kill Clinton while he was jogging. He didn't succeeded. And then he ended up arrested and shaded by the New York Times when they referred to him as "Unemployed Man."

The only interesting attempt on Clinton's life was a planted bomb under a bridge, but Secret Service diverted him away from the bridge. Foiling the lame plot of a little known terrorist named Osama bin Laden.

23. John F. Kennedy - December 11, 1960

But how lame is it the go down in history as the guy who DIDN'T kill JFK, though? Richard Paul Pavlick planned to drive his dynamite-laced car into Kennedy's car while he was on vacation, but had a change of heart after seeing Kennedy with his wife and daughter. He was stopped days later for a driving violation and the police naturally found a bunch of bombs in his car.
Via smithsonianmag.com

But how lame is it the go down in history as the guy who DIDN'T kill JFK, though? Richard Paul Pavlick planned to drive his dynamite-laced car into Kennedy's car while he was on vacation, but had a change of heart after seeing Kennedy with his wife and daughter. He was stopped days later for a driving violation and the police naturally found a bunch of bombs in his car.

22. Barack Obama - Two Attempts in 2008, One in 2009, One in 2013

Maybe technology has made it near impossible to try an assassinate a President, because these are just as awful as the attempts on Bill Clinton. In 2008, three random fellas tried driving down to the Democratic National Convention to kill Obama. They were arrested. Later, two white supremacists plotted to kill our first black President, they were arrested during the plotting stage. In 2009, someone forged Al-Jazeera credentials to try and STAB the President like we're living in a horror movie or something.And in 2013, some insane Breaking Bad fan mailed a bunch of ricin-laced letters to the White House.
Getty Images

Maybe technology has made it near impossible to try an assassinate a President, because these are just as awful as the attempts on Bill Clinton. In 2008, three random fellas tried driving down to the Democratic National Convention to kill Obama. They were arrested. Later, two white supremacists plotted to kill our first black President, they were arrested during the plotting stage.

In 2009, someone forged Al-Jazeera credentials to try and STAB the President like we're living in a horror movie or something.

And in 2013, some insane Breaking Bad fan mailed a bunch of ricin-laced letters to the White House.

21. Jimmy Carter - May 5, 1979

Raymond Lee Harvey was found with a pistol ten minutes before President Carter was supposed to give a speech at LA's Civic Center mall. Charges were dropped due to lack of evidence, but not after he tried claiming he had several accomplices. His mental illness led police to believe he was making up the accomplices.He'll go down as the Lee Harvey that DIDN'T kill a President.
Via patdollard.com

Raymond Lee Harvey was found with a pistol ten minutes before President Carter was supposed to give a speech at LA's Civic Center mall. Charges were dropped due to lack of evidence, but not after he tried claiming he had several accomplices. His mental illness led police to believe he was making up the accomplices.

He'll go down as the Lee Harvey that DIDN'T kill a President.

20. George W. Bush - May 10, 2005

During Bush's visit to Tbilsi, Georgia a grenade was thrown at his podium by Vladimir Arutyunian threw a grenade. And he would've gotten away with it too... if it weren't for the handkerchief wrapped around the grenade that kept it from going off. Way to go, Vladmir.

During Bush's visit to Tbilsi, Georgia a grenade was thrown at his podium by Vladimir Arutyunian threw a grenade. And he would've gotten away with it too... if it weren't for the handkerchief wrapped around the grenade that kept it from going off. Way to go, Vladmir.

19. George H.W. Bush - April 13, 1993

It took 14 men to plant a car bomb to try and blow up Bush Sr. and it didn't even work and also he wasn't even President anymore when they did it sooooo C for effort.

It took 14 men to plant a car bomb to try and blow up Bush Sr. and it didn't even work and also he wasn't even President anymore when they did it sooooo C for effort.

18. Richard Nixon - April 13, 1972

Arthur Bremer planned to shoot and kill Nixon, but was scared off by all the security surrounding him because who would ever think the President would have a security detail? He shot and injured the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, weeks later and got arrested.
AP Photo

Arthur Bremer planned to shoot and kill Nixon, but was scared off by all the security surrounding him because who would ever think the President would have a security detail? He shot and injured the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, weeks later and got arrested.

17. Harry S. Truman - Summer of 1947

A step up from ricin letters, I guess, Zionist Stern Gang sent a number of letter bombs to the White House on the eve of Israel's independence. Maybe sending letter bombs wasn't that lazy in 1947. Maybe everyone did it!
ABC News

A step up from ricin letters, I guess, Zionist Stern Gang sent a number of letter bombs to the White House on the eve of Israel's independence. Maybe sending letter bombs wasn't that lazy in 1947. Maybe everyone did it!

16. Abraham Lincoln - February 23, 1861

The night before his inauguration, Lincoln was snuck into Washington to evade would-be assassins. Except historians don't even know if the so-called Baltimore Plot was a real thing. This assassination attempt only gets brought up every so often because people are tired of always talking about John Wilkes Booth.
Edward Kinsella III

The night before his inauguration, Lincoln was snuck into Washington to evade would-be assassins. Except historians don't even know if the so-called Baltimore Plot was a real thing. This assassination attempt only gets brought up every so often because people are tired of always talking about John Wilkes Booth.

15. William Howard Taft - October 16, 1909

Taft was the first sitting president to cross the US-Mexico Border to meet with a Mexican president. Someone tried to shoot him but they were disarmed. As far as assassination attempts go, this is pretty tame.

Taft was the first sitting president to cross the US-Mexico Border to meet with a Mexican president. Someone tried to shoot him but they were disarmed. As far as assassination attempts go, this is pretty tame.

14. Richard Nixon - February 22, 1974

Samuel Byck hijacked a commercial airliner and planned to fly it into the White House. When the plane wouldn't take off he killed himself. At least he got a movie made about his attempt, which is more than most would-be assassins.

Samuel Byck hijacked a commercial airliner and planned to fly it into the White House. When the plane wouldn't take off he killed himself. At least he got a movie made about his attempt, which is more than most would-be assassins.

13. Herbert Hoover - November 19, 1928

In the 20s, there weren't many cars to blow up. So someone tried blowing up Hoover's train car in Argentina. Didn't work.

In the 20s, there weren't many cars to blow up. So someone tried blowing up Hoover's train car in Argentina. Didn't work.

12. Gerald Ford - September 5, 1975

Squeaky Fromme, a member of Charles Manson's cult, tried to kill Ford or maybe she didn't because the cartridge in her pistol was missing and it didn't go off. She later claimed to have left the cartridge at home on purpose, but she was in an insane cult so who knows what the hell she really tried to do. She became a media sensation afterward and still regularly appears in pop culture references, so she got to be as famous as Charles Manson which, if you're into that sort of thing, cool.

Squeaky Fromme, a member of Charles Manson's cult, tried to kill Ford or maybe she didn't because the cartridge in her pistol was missing and it didn't go off. She later claimed to have left the cartridge at home on purpose, but she was in an insane cult so who knows what the hell she really tried to do. She became a media sensation afterward and still regularly appears in pop culture references, so she got to be as famous as Charles Manson which, if you're into that sort of thing, cool.

11. Andrew Jackson - January 30, 1835

Richard Lawrence, a house painter, tried shooing the president. He had TWO guns. Both misfired. So Jackson beat him within an inch of his life with his cane.
Via slate.com

Richard Lawrence, a house painter, tried shooing the president. He had TWO guns. Both misfired. So Jackson beat him within an inch of his life with his cane.

10. Abraham Lincoln - August 1864

Someone tried killing Lincoln with a rifle shot, but it missed his head completely and shot a hole in his hat. The President was tall, but he wasn't THAT tall.

Someone tried killing Lincoln with a rifle shot, but it missed his head completely and shot a hole in his hat. The President was tall, but he wasn't THAT tall.

9. Harry S. Truman - November 1, 1950

Two Puerto Rican pro-independence activists Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola tried killing Truman at Blair House, where Truman stayed while the White House was being renovated. Torresola was shot and killed. Collazo got some prison time but was saved from a death sentence by Truman. He was later released by Jimmy Carter and became a hero in his country thanks to Fidel Castro.
Via ghostsofdc.org

Two Puerto Rican pro-independence activists Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola tried killing Truman at Blair House, where Truman stayed while the White House was being renovated. Torresola was shot and killed. Collazo got some prison time but was saved from a death sentence by Truman. He was later released by Jimmy Carter and became a hero in his country thanks to Fidel Castro.

8. Gerald Ford - September 22, 1975

The most interesting thing about this assassination attempt is what happened AFTER. Sara Jane Moore tried killing Ford in San Francisco, but bystander Oliver Sipple grabbed her arm and the shot missed. After the incident it was uncovered that not only was Sipple a veteran, but he was also gay. He was reportedly outed by Harvey Milk, who wanted to use Sipple as a counter to the idea that gays were predators and pedophiles. Sipple sued the San Francisco Chronicle for invasion of privacy after his outing, but he lost.

The most interesting thing about this assassination attempt is what happened AFTER. Sara Jane Moore tried killing Ford in San Francisco, but bystander Oliver Sipple grabbed her arm and the shot missed. After the incident it was uncovered that not only was Sipple a veteran, but he was also gay. He was reportedly outed by Harvey Milk, who wanted to use Sipple as a counter to the idea that gays were predators and pedophiles. Sipple sued the San Francisco Chronicle for invasion of privacy after his outing, but he lost.

7. William McKinley - September 6, 1901 (Died)

Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, shot and wounded McKinley. After his surgery, McKinley seemed to have completely recovered and was in good spirits. He eventually died from the gunshot wound a week later. McKinley's death, however, is what prompted the Secret Service to officially be charged with protecting the President's life.
T. Dart Walker

Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, shot and wounded McKinley. After his surgery, McKinley seemed to have completely recovered and was in good spirits. He eventually died from the gunshot wound a week later. McKinley's death, however, is what prompted the Secret Service to officially be charged with protecting the President's life.

6. Franklin D. Roosevelt - February 15, 1933

Giuseppe Zangara showed up at an impromptu speech Roosevelt was giving in Florida with a loaded pistol. He shot five times, missing Roosevelt, but killing Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. Reportedly, it was Zangara's appendectomy that drove him insane. He shouted wildly in court, "You give me electric chair. I no afraid of that chair!" Under Florida law, a convicted murderer could not share cell space with another prisoner before his execution, but another convicted murderer was already awaiting execution at the prison, prompting officials to expand their waiting area and effectively creating the first Death Row in America.

Giuseppe Zangara showed up at an impromptu speech Roosevelt was giving in Florida with a loaded pistol. He shot five times, missing Roosevelt, but killing Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. Reportedly, it was Zangara's appendectomy that drove him insane. He shouted wildly in court, "You give me electric chair. I no afraid of that chair!" Under Florida law, a convicted murderer could not share cell space with another prisoner before his execution, but another convicted murderer was already awaiting execution at the prison, prompting officials to expand their waiting area and effectively creating the first Death Row in America.

5. John F. Kennedy - November 22, 1963 (Died)

Probably the most well-known Presidential assassination thanks to it being immortalized in countless TV shows and movies, but is it the craziest? Not really. The most insane thing about JFK's assassination is all the conspiracy theories that sprang up in its aftermath. The official story is that shooter Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, but if you ask anyone their real opinion on the story, it was everything from an inside job, to a conspiracy of multiple shooters to a Shonda Rhimes plot twist.

Probably the most well-known Presidential assassination thanks to it being immortalized in countless TV shows and movies, but is it the craziest? Not really. The most insane thing about JFK's assassination is all the conspiracy theories that sprang up in its aftermath. The official story is that shooter Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, but if you ask anyone their real opinion on the story, it was everything from an inside job, to a conspiracy of multiple shooters to a Shonda Rhimes plot twist.

4. Abraham Lincoln - April 15, 1865 (Died)

The only assassination that matches JFK's in pure historical weight, Lincoln's edges out the former's assassination due to all of the urban legends surrounding the night, like Lincoln having premonitions of his own assassination. Or the fact that assassin John Wilkes Booth's father sent his own death threat to Lincoln years earlier. Reports vary about what Booth shouted after shooting Lincoln in his private box then leaping onto the stage, but most believe it was "Sic semper tyrannis!" -- the Virigina state motto meaning "Thus always tyrants." The elevated nature of the death and subsequent manhunt gives us an American assassination on par with Julius Caesar's that will surely be inspiration for writers for years to come.
Killing Lincoln

The only assassination that matches JFK's in pure historical weight, Lincoln's edges out the former's assassination due to all of the urban legends surrounding the night, like Lincoln having premonitions of his own assassination. Or the fact that assassin John Wilkes Booth's father sent his own death threat to Lincoln years earlier. Reports vary about what Booth shouted after shooting Lincoln in his private box then leaping onto the stage, but most believe it was "Sic semper tyrannis!" -- the Virigina state motto meaning "Thus always tyrants." The elevated nature of the death and subsequent manhunt gives us an American assassination on par with Julius Caesar's that will surely be inspiration for writers for years to come.

3. James A. Garfield - July 2, 1881 (Died)

Charles Guiteau's assassination of Garfield is landmark only because it's Garfield's own doctors who killed him. Guiteau shot Garfield, yes, but at the time doctors saw no need to sterilize their equipment or you know, clean their damn hands, before operation on a patient. It was the digging around in Garfield's body for the bullet that caused his infection and eventual death ELEVEN weeks later. After Garfield's death, Guiteau was put on trial for murder and became a media sensation because he was bonkers. He recited his testimony in poems and talked about being an instrument of God. Guiteau was executed by hanging and parts of his brain remains on display at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and National Museum of Health and Medicine in Maryland, because, science bitch?

Charles Guiteau's assassination of Garfield is landmark only because it's Garfield's own doctors who killed him. Guiteau shot Garfield, yes, but at the time doctors saw no need to sterilize their equipment or you know, clean their damn hands, before operation on a patient. It was the digging around in Garfield's body for the bullet that caused his infection and eventual death ELEVEN weeks later. After Garfield's death, Guiteau was put on trial for murder and became a media sensation because he was bonkers. He recited his testimony in poems and talked about being an instrument of God. Guiteau was executed by hanging and parts of his brain remains on display at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and National Museum of Health and Medicine in Maryland, because, science bitch?

2. Theodore Roosevelt - October 14, 1912

Another attempt made on a President AFTER they left office, but this one is so high up based on the fact that Roosevelt was shot while delivering a speech in Milwaukee and continued to give the speech for 90 more damn minutes. Ninety minutes, y'all. During the speech he showed the crowd his bloody shirt and said "It takes more than that to kill a bull moose." Well, then.The assassin, John F. Schrank, claimed the ghost of William McKinley showed up to ask him to avenge his assassination... because Roosevelt was involved? Maybe? Who cares.
LIFE

Another attempt made on a President AFTER they left office, but this one is so high up based on the fact that Roosevelt was shot while delivering a speech in Milwaukee and continued to give the speech for 90 more damn minutes. Ninety minutes, y'all. During the speech he showed the crowd his bloody shirt and said "It takes more than that to kill a bull moose." Well, then.

The assassin, John F. Schrank, claimed the ghost of William McKinley showed up to ask him to avenge his assassination... because Roosevelt was involved? Maybe? Who cares.

1. Ronald Reagan - March 30, 1981

The top spot in Presidential assassination attempts HAS to go to John Hinckley, Jr.'s attempt on Reagan. Not only was it caught on camera and aired on television, but the reasons behind the shooting make for the most insane out of the entire bunch. Obsessed with a teenage Jodie Foster after seeing the movie Taxi Driver, Hinckley began stalking her for years. He enrolled in a writing class at Yale to get close to her, called her and sent her creepy notes. Finally he decided that the only way to get her attention was to become a historical figure. He tried and failed to kill Jimmy Carter when he was President, so he went after Reagan.No motive of anarchy, political unrest or revenge. He was simply obsessed with a woman and wanted attention. That makes him the scariest and sadly, the most common, of everyone on the list.

The top spot in Presidential assassination attempts HAS to go to John Hinckley, Jr.'s attempt on Reagan. Not only was it caught on camera and aired on television, but the reasons behind the shooting make for the most insane out of the entire bunch. Obsessed with a teenage Jodie Foster after seeing the movie Taxi Driver, Hinckley began stalking her for years. He enrolled in a writing class at Yale to get close to her, called her and sent her creepy notes. Finally he decided that the only way to get her attention was to become a historical figure. He tried and failed to kill Jimmy Carter when he was President, so he went after Reagan.

No motive of anarchy, political unrest or revenge. He was simply obsessed with a woman and wanted attention. That makes him the scariest and sadly, the most common, of everyone on the list.

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