Pierre Salinger

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Pierre Salinger
Pierre Salinger (1970).jpg
Pierre Salinger in 1970
United States Senator
from California
In office
August 4, 1964 – December 31, 1964
Appointed by Pat Brown
Preceded by Clair Engle
Succeeded by George Murphy
11th White House Press Secretary
In office
January 20, 1961 – March 19, 1964
President John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by James Hagerty
Succeeded by George Reedy
Personal details
Born Pierre Emil George Salinger
June 14, 1925
San Francisco, California
Died October 16, 2004 (aged 79)
Cavaillon, France
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Renee Laboure, Nancy Joy, Nicole Gillman, Nicole De Menthon
Alma mater University of San Francisco
Religion Roman Catholic[1]
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Battles/wars World War II

Pierre Emil George Salinger (June 14, 1925 – October 16, 2004) was a White House Press Secretary to U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Salinger served as a United States Senator in 1964 and was campaign manager for the Robert F. Kennedy presidential campaign.

He later became known for his work as an ABC News correspondent, and in particular for his coverage of the American hostage crisis in Iran, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland, and his claims as to the cause of the explosion of TWA flight 800.

Early life

Salinger was born in San Francisco, California. His father, Herbert Salinger, was a New York City-born mining engineer, and his mother, Jehanne (née Biétry), was a French-born journalist.[2][3][4] His maternal grandfather, Pierre Biétry, was a member of the French National Assembly and devised Yellow socialism.[2] Salinger was raised in his mother's Catholic religion (his father was Jewish).[5] Salinger attended public magnet Lowell High School.[1] He attended San Francisco State University (then College) from 1941 to 1943 where he was managing editor and columnist for the student newspaper, the Golden Gater. He left SF State and entered the United States Navy in July 1943. Salinger was commanding officer of SC 1368 in the Pacific. He distinguished himself during Typhoon "Louise" in Okinawa by making a daring rescue of some men stranded on a reef. For this act he received the Navy and Marine Corps medal.[4] After serving with the United States Navy to Lieutenant, junior grade during World War II, Salinger finished his studies at the University of San Francisco, earning a BS in 1947.[6] Salinger then began his journalism career as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and as a contributing Editor to Collier's in the 1940s and 1950s.

1960s: The Kennedy years, Presidential Press Secretary, U.S. Senator

Salinger was one of the leading figures in Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign, at times described as being part of Kennedy's Kitchen Cabinet.[7] In 1961, when John F. Kennedy became President of the United States, he hired Salinger as his press secretary. When JFK was assassinated, Salinger was on a plane flying to Tokyo with six Cabinet members, including Secretary of State Dean Rusk.[8] Salinger's visit was to have been for an economic conference, and to start working on a visit JFK was going to take in February 1964 as the first American president to visit Japan since World War II. Salinger was retained by President Lyndon Johnson as Press Secretary after JFK's death. As Kennedy's White House Press Secretary, Salinger was accused of "news management."[9]

Following his service in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Salinger returned to California and ran for the Senate. He defeated then California State Controller Alan Cranston in a contentious Democratic Primary. Governor of California Pat Brown, who had supported Cranston in the Primary, appointed Salinger a Democratic United States Senator to fill the vacancy resulting from the July 30, 1964 death of retiring Senator Clair Engle; he took office on August 4, 1964. In his bid for a full six-year term in the 1964 election, he was defeated by former actor (and vaudeville song and dance man) George Murphy following a campaign in which Salinger's only recent return to his native state became an issue, his legal residency even being challenged in court. Salinger was also hurt at the polls by his adamant support (despite advice from his political managers) of legislation banning racial housing discrimination.[10] Salinger's loss made California the sole Democrat-held seat to go Republican in what was otherwise a Democratic landslide.

Salinger resigned from the Senate on December 31, 1964, only three days before his term was to expire. Senator-elect Murphy, who was to take office on January 3, 1965, was appointed to fill the remaining two days of Salinger's term, giving Murphy a slight advantage in seniority in the Senate over other members of the "class of 1964" at a time when seniority was even more vital in Senate affairs than now.[citation needed]

Salinger appeared in a third season episode 111 of Batman, "The Joke's on Catwoman," broadcast on ABC on January 4, 1968. In the episode, Salinger portrays "Lucky Pierre," an unscrupulous lawyer who defends Catwoman and The Joker in a trial. In Salinger's first scene, he is sitting at his desk with a photo of a young Richard Nixon prominently displayed, and in an amusing epilogue, Batman (Adam West) laments Lucky Pierre's fate by saying, "If he hadn't gone so wrong, he might have had a fine career in politics, won a gubernatorial race, and the White House even."[11]

He wrote a book, With Kennedy and became vice-president of Continental Airlines.[12]

Salinger was one of the managers of Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign. When Senator Kennedy was shot to death in June, Salinger was 10 to 12 feet (3.0 to 3.7 m) away from him. Salinger claims that Jim McManus, who was also working on the campaign, said to him, "I've got to get the message to Los Angeles, under no circumstances should Bobby go through that (Ambassador Hotel) kitchen ... there's usually grease on the floor. He's going to fall or something." Salinger was devastated by RFK's assassination and moved to France as a correspondent for L'Express.[1]

In 1968 he became director of Great America Management and Research Company (GRAMCO), a mutual investment fund in U.S. real estate aimed at foreigners.[12]

Career in broadcast journalism


In 1976, ABC Sports employed Salinger as a features commentator for the network's coverage of the Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck.

In 1978, he was hired by ABC News as its Paris bureau chief. He became the network's chief European correspondent based in London in 1983.

In 1981, he was bestowed with a George Polk award for his scoop that the US government was secretly negotiating to free the Americans held hostage by Iran.[13]

In 1989, Salinger provided commentary on the Tour de France for ABC Sports.

In a November, 1989 report for ABC's Prime Time Live, Salinger claimed that Iran had paid Syria and Ahmed Jibril, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), to carry out the Pan Am 103 bombing.[14]

After the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, ABC started work on a special program about the invasion and sent Salinger to the Middle East, where he obtained a transcript in Arabic of a conversation between Saddam Hussein and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie, in which Glaspie infamously told Saddam: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts," interpreted by some as giving Saddam the green light to invade Kuwait, which he did days later.[15]

Life after ABC

After leaving ABC, Salinger moved back to Washington, D.C., and became an executive with the Burson Marsteller public relations firm before returning to France in 2000. Until the late 80s, Salinger had been a popular TV pundit in France, and was a frequent guest on French news and public affairs shows when someone was needed to explain or interpret American events for French viewers. Salinger even hosted a program for the cable network A&E in the early 1990s called Dining in France.

Salinger later became known for his claims in November 1996 that friendly fire from the United States Navy was the cause of the TWA Flight 800 crash. In November 2000, he became exasperated when he was denied permission to give exonerating evidence as part of his testimony before the Scottish Court in the Netherlands to try two Libyans for the downing on December 21, 1988, of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Salinger stated that he knew who the real bombers were, but was told by trial judge, Lord Sutherland: "If you wish to make a point you may do so elsewhere, but I'm afraid you may not do so in this court."[16]

He later made a permanent move to France, making good on his promise that, "If Bush wins, I'm going to leave the country and spend the rest of my life in France.[17] "

Salinger died in October 2004 of heart failure in Cavaillon hospital near his home, La Bastide Rose, in Le Thor, France, at the age of 79.[18] He is buried in the Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington, DC.


  • A Tribute to John F. Kennedy (editor, with Sander Vanocur), 1964
  • With Kennedy (1966)
  • An Honorable Profession: A Tribute to Robert F. Kennedy (editor with Edwin Guthman, Frank Mankiewicz, and John Seigenthaler), 1968
  • On Instructions of My Government, 1971
  • Je Suis un Américain (I am an American), 1975
  • La France et Le nouveau Monde, 1976
  • Venezuelan Notebooks, 1979
  • America Held Hostage: The Secret Negotiations, 1981
  • Reporting U.S.-European Relations (with Michael Rice, Jonathan Carr, Henri Pierre, and Jan Reifenberg), 1982
  • The Dossier (with Leonard Gross), 1984
  • Above Paris: A New Collection of Aerial Photographs of Paris, France (author of text), 1984
  • Mortal Games (co-author with Leonard Gross), 1988
  • Secret Dossier: The Hidden Agenda Behind the Gulf War (co-author with Éric Laurent), 1991
  • Tempete du Desert: Les Secrets de la Maison Blanche, 1991
  • P.S., A Memoir, 1995
  • John F. Kennedy, Commander in Chief: A Profile in Leadership, 1997
  • Escape to Hell and other stories (foreword, collection authored by Muammar Gaddafi), 1998


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Watch". Booknotes. November 12, 1995. Retrieved October 5, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Salinger, Pierre (2001). P. S.: A Memoir. St. Martins Press. p. 2. ISBN 0-312-30020-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Yollin, Patricia (October 17, 2004). "Pierre Salinger – press secretary to presidents". The San Francisco Chronicle.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Purdum, Todd S. (October 18, 2004). "Pierre Salinger, Press Secretary to Kennedy, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Pierre Salinger's profile". NNDB. Retrieved October 3, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Historical resources, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (2004). "Pierre Salinger Biography". Retrieved November 11, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Taylor Branch, Parting the Water: America in the King Years 1954–63 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988) p. 362
  8. Rusk, Dean (1990). Rusk, Richard; Papp, Daniel S., eds. As I Saw It. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 296. ISBN 0-393-02650-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Salinger Disavows Managing the News But Accuses Editors; Salinger Denies Editors Charge; He a Says They 'Manage' News Suggests a Surve". New York Times. March 23, 1963. Retrieved October 5, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Bradley, Don. "Managing Democratic Campaigns, 1943–1966" (Oral History, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1977–79)
  11. "'Lucky Pierre' Gets To Be On 'Batman,'" St. Petersburg Times, Saturday, December 16, 1967.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Korengold, Robert J. (March 10, 1969) "Salinge finds niche in business". Washington Post.
  13. "Americas | JFK's press secretary dies at 79". BBC News. 2004-10-17. Retrieved 2016-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  15. "Obituary: Pierre Salinger | Media". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "WORLD | Lockerbie trial adjourns". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Star Trek". Snopes.com. Retrieved 2016-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Former Kennedy aide Pierre Salinger dies". Usatoday.Com. 2004-10-18. Retrieved 2016-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
James C. Hagerty
White House Press Secretary
Succeeded by
George Reedy
United States Senate
Preceded by
Clair Engle
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from California
Served alongside: Thomas H. Kuchel
Succeeded by
George L. Murphy
Party political offices
Preceded by
Clair Engle
Democratic nominee for Senator from California
(Class 1)

Succeeded by
John V. Tunney