Advertising and Public Relations Law

By Roy L. Moore; Ronald T. Farrar et al. | Go to book overview

11
Public Disclosure of Private Facts

On September 11, 1975, less than a generation after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the life of another U.S. President was suddenly and dramatically placed in jeopardy. The president: Gerald R. Ford. The would-be assassin: a deeply disturbed young woman named Sara Jane Moore. The episode occurred at Union Square in San Francisco, where the president was to make a speech. As President Ford worked through the crowd, shaking hands with onlookers and well wishers, neither he nor his Secret Service bodyguards spotted the revolver in the hands of Ms. Moore, who had edged her way toward the front rank of spectators, and was by now only a few feet from the president. But a man standing nearby, Oliver W. Sipple, did. Just as she raised the pistol to fire, Sipple dived at the woman, grabbing her arm and causing the bullet to miss. This valiant, selfless effort almost certainly saved the president's life. Sipple was hailed as a hero and, inevitably, subjected to massive local and national publicity, although, as things turned out, he would greatly have preferred no publicity at all.

Within hours, popular local columnist Herb Caen published an item in the San Francisco Chronicle column suggesting that Sipple was homosexual:

One of the heroes of the day, Oliver "Bill" Sipple, the ex-Marine who grabbed Sara Jane Moore's arm just as her gun was fired and thereby may have saved the President's life, was the center of midnight attention at the Red Lantern, a Golden Gate Ave. bar he favors. The Rev. Ray Broshears, head of Helping Hands, and Gay Politico, Harvey Milk, who claim to be among Sipple's closest friends, describe themselves as "proud--maybe this will help break the stereotype."

An article the next day in the Los Angeles Times theorized that President Ford's failure to promptly thank Sipple for his heroism was a direct result of Sipple's sexual orientation:

-218-

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