Thirty years ago today, President Reagan was shot as he left the Washington Hilton after addressing a union conference. Three others were wounded, including his press secretary James Brady. Looking back at some of the footage today, what struck me was the media confusion on what had happened, something that has only been exacerbated in the age of the Internet.
The obvious parallel that everyone drew was to 1963. My principal in junior high let school out early that day in 1981, and although it was momentous news at the time, it was clear by days end that Reagan would survive.
The most vivid memory of all of the coverage that day is of Frank Reynolds, then ABC’s chief anchor, who nearly breaks down in frustration as reports filter in that the president had been hit by a bullet. It’s at the 4:15 mark of this video, which also includes Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s career-defining press conference in which he declares that he is “in control” and the White House and gives a mistaken path of succession.