tv Piers Morgan Live CNN November 23, 2013 12:00am-1:01am PST
good evening. this is "piers morgan live" looking at the grave site of john f kennedy at arlington national cemetery. two days after the assassination jackie requested the flame as a permanent memorial. 50 years later, america and the world are remembering the 35th president in dallas, the city where jfk died a moment of silence at 12:30 local time, the exact moment the shots rang out in dealey plaza. >> ladies and gentlemen, would you join me in a moment of silence in honor of the life of john fitzgerald kennedy?
>> president kennedy was cut down before he could finish his first term and his story is different. he's overwhelmingly popular with americans today, much more so than when he was alive. jfk is the most popular president of the last half century with a 90% approval rating. i want to begin tonight with a man who stood by the kennedys on that tragic day 50 years ago. clint hill is a secret service agent who jumped on the back of the presidential limo and haunted for decades. his new book is "five days in november" and client hill joins me now. thank you so much for joining me. of all the people who remember this day, you were the one who was closest to what happened. you were the agent who jumped on the back of that limousine and realized instantly what had
happened to the president of your country. tell me how you're feeling today on this 50th anniversary. >> well, it's been rather emotional. we started out the morning in fort worth where they had a breakfast to commemorate in the same hotel, had the same type of breakfast with the chamber of commerce. then we came over to dallas just like 50 years ago and we attended the services in dealey plaza. so it was an emotional time for me and for many, and i'm certainly glad i could be there. >> when you stood at dealey plaza, did your mind go back very vividly to what happened 50 years ago? >> oh, yes, certainly it did and does frequently because that's what i think of at least once a day, probably more than that. is the run through my mind what
actually happened on elm street in dealey plaza. >> when we see the footage, as we are now of the seconds immediately after the bullets began to ring out, you're on the limousine behind. did you realize immediately that the first shots that impacted on the president was a bullet? >> no, i only recognize it as an explosion of some kind behind me to -- over my right shoulder, and -- but when i scanned towards the noise and saw the president -- his move the in the backseat, he grabbed at his throat, he moved sharply to his left. i knew something had happened, and i assumed at that point that it must have been a shot. so that's when i jumped off the car and ran. >> right, and you start to run and you're trying to get on the back there. what is going through your mind? jackie kennedy starts to reach back.
was she reaching back to you because you were, i know, her personal body guard or was it as i've read elsewhere, she literally could see parts of her husband's head on the back of the limousine? >> no, she had come up onto the back of the presidential vehicle to retrieve some of the material that came out of the president's head. she didn't realize that i was even there at first until i got ahold of her and pushed her into the backseat, but she -- her purpose was to retrieve some of the material that came out of the president's wound. >> you then lie on top of everyone in that car, you're protecting them like a shield as it speeds to the hospital. by this point, did you know for certain that the president was almost definitely dead? >> i was quite sure he was dead because he had fallen to his left, and his head was in mrs. kennedy's lap. the right side of his face was
up, and i could see his eyes were fixed, and i could see through a hole in his skull that most of the brain matter in that area had been destroyed. and so i assumed immediately that it was a fatal wound, and that he was dead. >> there have been reports that you gave a thumbs down sign to the limousine behind you with other secret service. is that correct? >> that is true. i did that to make sure that they understood how serious the situation was. >> it took eight minutes to get to the parkland hospital in dallas. it must have been one of the longest eight minutes of your entire life. talk to me about what was going on in that car? how was jackie kennedy? obviously the governor was hit as well and his wife was there. what was it like to be in that limousine for those eight minutes? >> when the president was shot with the shot that hit him in the head, mrs. kennedy immediately went into shock.
so she tried to retrieve the material. when i got in the seat, she made a couple comments. she said i have his brains in my hand. and then she said oh jack, oh jack, what have they done? jack, oh, jack i love you. that's the only thing she said on the way to parkland. we were traveling very fast. i didn't even know at first that the governor had been shot until mrs. connally moved slightly because she was covering his body and when she did that, i saw that he was covered in blood. realized he had also been shot. at one point we were going so fast i turned my head and my sunglasses blew off. so we got to the hospital as quickly as we could. >> when you got there, obviously, the whole hospital went into emergency mode to try and save the president, although that turned out to be a fruitless exercise almost from the moment he got there. what was the situation like in
the room where he was being operated on? because i believe you were there briefly and so was the first lady. >> yes, we put him into trama room one and immediately the medical staff started arriving. by the numbers, at one time i counted 15 or 17 doctors in and out of there. it wasn't that large a space, and so a great number of them could not be in there constantly and they were trying everything they could to resuscitate him. mrs. kennedy was in there periodically and then she could come out and go back in, but they worked on him until roughly 1:00 and then the doctor just decided that it was not working and he made the declaration the president was dead. >> you personally recall from the president's brother, bobby kennedy, what did he say to you? >> i had been asked to open a line to the white house and explain what was going on, and
in the process the operator cut in and said to the attorney general which is robert kennedy wanted to talk to me. he asked me a question. he said what is going on down there? because he really didn't know. all he had been told was by hoover that the president had been shot. so he asked me to that question, and i tried to explain to him what had happened, and that we were in parkland hospital and then he said well, how bad is it? i didn't want to tell him his brother was dead. i didn't think it was my place. i said it was as bad as it can get and when i did that he simply hung up the phone. he didn't say another word to me and that's how he found out what really happened that day. >> you were very close to the first lady. once it was known that the president was dead, how was she
in that moment, and did she talk to you about it given that you were her body guard at the time? >> she didn't talk to anyone really about it. she broke down. she was in tears. she went -- she was in the room, and at one point she removed her wedding ring from her finger and placed it on the president's hand. she was very tearful, sad. it was a very, very touching scene to see her there. >> and clint, what was going through your mind when you knew you lost a president under your watch and the watch of the secret service. of the entire secret service of 38 people, only 10 were working that day. what was going through your head out that moment? a sense of guilt because it's your job to keep the president
alive. describe to me the emotions you were feeling. >> well, i did develop a sense of guilt because i thought i should have been able to do better. i -- i was the only one who had a chance to do anything because of the way the entire thing developed. i was on the left hand side of the car behind the president. the shots came over my right shoulder. when i looked towards the shots, i scanned the president's car and saw what happened. the other agents, they looked towards the noise and they were looking away from the president's car, so they didn't realize at first what had happened. by the time they looked back, it was too late for them to react or do anything. so i felt like i was the only one who had a chance, and i just couldn't do -- get there quick enough. so we had this responsibility to protect the president of the united states, and we failed that day. and that's bothered me ever
since. >> i know that you've been back there, and you've sort of worked out exactly what happened in your mind. when you look at all the footage, do you think you could have reacted any faster? do you think you could have got there any quicker? is there any real substance to why you should feel guilt or did you feel when you went back and retrace the the movements that day from lee harvey oswald to the secret service and so on that really in the end he held all the cards and there was nothing you could do? >> that's exactly it. he did have all the advantage that day. we didn't have any, and after really evaluating it and looking at everything, i concluded that i had done everything i could that day. there wasn't anything else i could have done and i couldn't have gotten there faster. >> when we come back, i want to talk about the kennedy conspiracy theories and the touching note that jackie kennedy wrote to you.
clint, it had obviously been a difficult time for mrs. kennedy because she lost her young son patrick kennedy and they were obviously mourning as a couple before this. tell me about the buildup what happened. >> she wanted to go to texas. initially she came to me and told me that's what she's going to do because she wanted the president, wanted to help the president in the reelection build for 1964 but then adlai stevenson, the u.s. ambassador to the united nations had gone to dallas and been making a speech and he was heckled, spat upon. somebody hit him with a plaque and it became evident it was not really a very welcoming place to visit for some people. and so she came to me and asked me about what i thought, and i explained to her that it appeared to us that dallas is no
worse than any other place in the south for a president and mrs. kennedy to visit. that there were going to be some problems no matter where we went, but we didn't think they were very serious in dallas. we knew there was an element in that society that differed with president kennedy's policies, but we thought it was manageable and that we didn't see that there was any reason not to go. we had no intelligence information that would give us an indication there was going to be an attempt or anything serious like that. >> this, i think, was one of mrs. kennedy's first public outings since the death of her son, is that right? >> that's true. after patrick died in august, she decided to get away for awhile, so she went on a trip to europe and went aboard a yacht and toured through the greek islands into turkey and when we came back -- that was at the
insistence of the president and when she came back, she felt much better. she was recovering from the loss of her son, but she was that -- at that time is when she made that decision to go to texas. >> before the huge state funeral happened, jackie kennedy asked the president's casket to be opened before leaving the east room of the white house. why did she do that, and what did she then do? >> she indicated her and her brother-in-law wanted to view the president's body. so general mchugh and i opened it to make sure everything was okay and they walked up to the casket. they viewed the president very briefly and then she turned to me and said, mr. hill, will you get me a pair of scissors, please? i ran down to the usher's office and got a pair of scissors. handed them to her, and stood
there as i heard the clip, clip, clip. i knew that she was cutting a lock of his hair. they then turned and walked from the east room. she handed me the scissors, and she and the attorney general went up to the family living quarters on the second floor. general mchugh and i checked the casket, make sure it was okay and the casket was sealed and never reopened. >> then obviously looking at pictures here, the iconic image of jacqueline kennedy and obviously her young son giving the salute. you're in that picture. when you look at that image and you must see it so often, i guess, what goes through your mind? do you feel about the future of america and the family you've become so close to? >> that's one of the photographs that really reminds me how sad the occasion was.
that happened to be the day of the president's funeral, but it also was young john's third birthday. and he had learned how to salute and when the president's casket was brought out and placed on the case on, all the military presence saluted the president. and then mrs. kennedy leaned over and whispered in john's ear, said something, i'm not sure exactly but he threw his shoulders back and saluted his father, and i don't think there was a dry high from the highest ranking general to the lowest private in that entire group that were there and it's still -- when i see it even today, it -- i get choked up often times when i see that photograph. >> completely understandable. i think it made everybody choke up and still does. let's talk about jacqueline kennedy. you stay with her, i think, for another year. did you ever talk to her again about the assassination, or was it something you just didn't discuss? >> that was a subject that
neither she or i discussed with each other. we did not talk about the assassination at all. >> there is a very powerful note you have, a handwritten note from the first lady, the back of your book which is full of the most extraordinary pictures, beautifully writ and designed, i have to say, very powerful but the note says for clint hill who did more than anyone to make my life with the president happy and he guarded and protected him until the very end. how can i thank you? jacqueline kennedy. that must have made you very proud after the misery of what had gone on before. >> yes, that was very pleasing to me. she would take the time and write that note to me, and it indicated to me that i had helped her in someway and that her life there during that three-year period when they were in the white house was a happy period in her life. >> finally, clint hill, of all the raging conspiracy theories, you must have gone through them
all in your head, read everything, seen everything but you come at such a unique perspective. do any of them have any possible credence to you? have you ever had doubt it was lee harvey oswald acting alone? >> none of them had given me any indication they are anything but theory. there has never been any fact involved with any of them and i hear a new one almost every day and it continues. but none of them are really factual. they are just stories made up. i don't know for exactly why but they don't do anybody any good. they just lead to more problems. >> what is your favorite memory of the kennedys? obviously, we know the worst moment you have with them, but what is your favorite moment when you look back? >> the favorite moments are when the four of them were together. the president, mrs. kennedy and their two children, whether up
on a boat or down in palm beach and with the president and caroline, john and mrs. kennedy swimming off the boat or out in virginia where they had a country place and mrs. kennedy and caroline and john would be riding horses, and enjoying themselves and the president watching them and enjoying what they were doing. he couldn't ride because his back, but he really would like to be out there kind of away from the crowd and spend that time with his wife and children. that was when they appeared to be happiest, and that made me happy to see that. >> clint hill, you did a remarkable thing that day. you went to risk your life putting yourself, if you could between this assassin and the president, not knowing what may have happened and for that, on behalf of everyone in america, i'm sure i spoke for everyone when i say i thank you for your service that day and we all share your grief about what happened, and 50 years on, that grief i'm sure for you is as intense as it was.
given a blood transfusion in an effort to save his life after he and governor connally were shot in an assassination attempt. a priest was ordered and supplies rushed through the hospital. >> the president's car sped to the hospital where doctors raced to trama room one. dr. jones was the first to see him and john connally was riding in the motorcade. you were in the white house bus behind the limousine itself. i suppose the question for both of you off the top, how does it feel to have been involved so directly in an event of such magnitude. first to you julian? >> it's an event we didn't plan to be in. the shock was enormous. you didn't have time, really, to have emotions at that time. i think those of us who were involved in it, i think you went on automatic pilot, you know, to
do what you instinctually know to do. >> dr. jones, you were 31 years old. you had been operating that day. part of a surgical team, they run in and how does it happen? they say the president has been shot. >> the operator paged overhead. we didn't have beepers then. there was a loud speaker, and she began to page people stat, respond immediately and i went to the phone and said why are you paging everyone stat? she said dr. jones, president has been shot and they are bringing him to the emergency room and they need physician right away. you have a rush over you. >> there is no more important moment in a surgeon's life in america than your president has been shot and is coming to your theater. >> that's correct. and i immediately turned around and saw the chief of anesthesia
and the o.r. supervisor and he said i'll get an anesthesia machine to the operating room and ms. bell said i'll get the or ready we thought maybe he was shot in the chest or abdomen and we could take care of him. when we reached the emergency room, that was a different story. >> were you very quickly aware he was unlikely to survive? >> as soon as i walked into trauma room one, i saw him, mrs. kennedy was on the left in the room. he was on a stretcher. arms were out on arm boards and i saw a small wound in his neck but i knew he had a large wound in the back of his head and i saw no evidence of life but the second year resident thought he saw some respiration just as he came in the room, and we were probably a minute later and that's what triggered the resuscitation. >> i believe julian reed you arrived at the hospital and say mrs. kennedy and mrs. connally sitting in the hall of the trama room. a remarkable moment.
what was it like to witness in realtime? >> i found the open door at the end of the hospital, remarkable, you know, no one there, no security, and i found a nurse quickly and asked her if she would take me to ms. connally. she did. i found ms. connally in a dark hallway out side trauma room two. the president was in trama room one. she was sitting there across with jackie kennedy. two women, not a sound spoken, thinking about their husbands and whether they could survive. >> did you say anything to them? >> i talked to her. i certainly didn't say anything to ms. kennedy. i talked to her because i knew the press would be there any minute. i needed to know what happened. i needed to report what occurred. mrs. connally was calm under the stress and she knew he was inside in hands to save him hopefully. >> and he did thankfully.
>> he did, thank god, that's the good thing that came out of that. >> the president of usually did not survive. he was read the last rights by two catholic priests that came into the room. the moment he was pronounced dead, that was a chilling moment. >> we knew he was dead when we did the iv and started chest tubes and had an ekg heart machine brought in. >> what are you thinking? there you are, you got your president there fighting for his life. what is going through your mind at age 31? >> how did i get here? the odds of me taking care ever care of a president are one and -- >> did you manage to stay calm? how would you describe your state? >> i think we kicked into a routine management of a trauma patient and knowing that it was the president but still you get an airway, iv going and assess the injuries is. that's what we did initially and
then we knew that -- i thought probably he was not going to make it anyway, but we decided we would try to do something rather than nothing. >> then unbelievably you happen to be in the hospital again. you get a call. lee harvey oswald the assassin himself has been shot and again, you're operating on him. >> well, i was in the operating room lounge when the call came and i went up the hall to get dr. perry and jenkins. we went to trauma room two, which is the same room governor connally had been in and when they brought oswald in, he was unconscious and did not have blood pressure and he had a heart beat and lived an hour and 20 minutes in the operating room. i did the same thing, an iv in the left arm with a cut down and put a chest tube in because he had been shot in the left chest and we had him to the operating room within ten minutes from the time he came to the emergency room. dr. tom shyers was the chief surgeon and i was one of four. >> is there a single day that
goes by in your life when you don't think of this? >> there aren't many that go by because something reminds you of it one way or another. >> the build up -- >> now it's just on an hour to hour basis you're involved with this. so many people are interested about this and so many want to ask you about this. >> one final question, do you subscribe to a conspiracy? >> i don't think there is anything we haven't heard. there is a crop of conspiracies that comes around every time but i don't think they will ever stop. >> julian reed and dr. jones, thank you both very much indeed. john f. kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00 p.m. central time. the moment walter cronkite told the nation he was dead, lyndon johnson was taking office aboard air force one, the same plane that is carrying president kennedy's body back to washington.
the story and jeff under wood takes us on board. we are standing here on board president john kennedy's air force one at the national museum of the united states air force. this is where mr. johnson took office and the place he stood. as we move back towards the rear of the aircraft, you can see the seats are kind of tight but that's because this was a working aircraft. it flew for the air force in carrying presidents and vips for 36 years, a long career and now has a new career here at the national museum. as we go further back, we come to an area, which is the galley, the presidential meals were prepared and see the series of seats at the very back, these very four seats are the ones that the air crew pulled out to
move out of the way and they took a saw and cut the bulk head just along here to make sure there is room and they brought the president's casket in and brought it in and laid it along here, and this is where mrs. kennedy sat on that fateful day on that terrible flight back from dallas to washington d.c. >> jeff under wood, thank you very much. president kennedy's death was more than a national tragedy. it was a personal tragedy for his family. when we come back, i'll talk to his nephew and his niece. reall. i get bonuses even working part-time. where i work, over 400 people are promoted every day. healthcare starting under $40 a month. i got education benefits. i work at walmart. i'm a pharmacist. sales associate. i manage produce. i work in logistics. there's more to walmart than you think. vo: opportunity. that's the real walmart.
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now that he is relieved of the almost superhuman burden we imposed on him, may he rest in peace. >> chief justice moving eulogy. joining me now president kennedy's nephew and niece. welcome to both of you. kerry, you were four years old and i know you don't have memory of that awful day but in terms of the legacy of jfk, what would you think it should be?
>> i think he was a man who really loved our country, and tried to make our policy both domestically and internationally reflective of our greatest values of democracy, of caring about people who live in poverty, of making sure that everyone in our country actually had a rote and was able to go to the polls and vote. so i think that's why we remember him as a great leader and as somebody who is fun and full of youth and vigor. >> robert, you wrote a piece for "rolling stone magazine" what paints him of a man of peace, and on the foreign stage was seeking all the time to avoid conflict. >> yeah, he told his friends that he was basically a piece at
any price president, despite the cold war blabber that he used during his campaign. privately, he was a -- he was a war hero. he was a war veteran. he seen the capriciousness, the war. there was a consensus among the joint chiefs of staff we're all world war ii veterans and heroes and icons, that the soviet union had that we were way ahead of the soviets with nuclear arms but they were going to catch up to us in 1965, and that we needed that nuclear war was not only inevitable but it was desirable and it was desirable in the short term before they had the capacity to catch up, so they kept trying to trip president kennedy into a nuclear war, and one of the things that i talk about in that article is his vietnam record, and it's
become fashionable today to look at vietnam as kind of a continuing that started with eisenhower and kennedy and johnson. in fact, jack went beyond anything that i think any president has done to keep us out of vietnam and he intended, in fact, a month before he died, he issued a national security order making it the official policy of the united states to get us out of vietnam, the first thousand troops home by the end of november and all u.s. personnel out of vietnam by the end of 1965 and that was his intention. he repeatedly stated it to advisors. he went against all advisors doing it, but it was -- he refused to put ground troops in. >> amazing. kerry, we got this fabulous picture, an iconic image, you playing hide and seek inside the oval office with president kennedy there, with caroline, i think it was, wasn't it? >> that's the two of us.
>> when you see that, what do you think? >> it brings back so much joy of my youngest years when jack was president, daddy was the attorney general at the height of the civil rights movement. i remember being at the cape and waiting for the helicopters every friday and they would bring my uncle jack and my father and uncle sarge and those close to our family and we would go returning down the hill and jack would always pick us up and put us into a golf cart that my grandfather had and sort of go whipping around the compound. so it's a lot of fun. but, you know, i think that the reason people really think about jack and remember him is i think it's true of jack and also of my
father is that they really brought out the best in all of us and they didn't appeal to our anger or our rage or our fear about the world, but they appealed to the best of us, the side of us that says we can be a country at peace. we can have compassion towards those who have nothing. >> how will the kennedy family as a unit remember jfk on the anniversary itself? is there a plan for the family to get together? >> you know, our family really tries to celebrate his birthday and not his day of death. my father was actually born november 20th and every year on his birthday, we present the robert f. kennedy human rights award before we present it, we always go to arlington cemetery. what we should be looking at is not how these men died but how they lived and questioning what can we learn from that? and how can we take that value and vision and apply it to the challenges we face as a nation or as a family today.
back now with john f. kennedy's nephew and niece. let me ask you, robert, iconic family in america. we saw your cousin caroline sworn as ambassador to japan. her son, jfk's grandson jack was there looking very handsome like all the kennedy boys. exciting all the media. is there anybody in the family as you look at it that you think could genuinely have the political drive and aspiration to perhaps one day run for president? >> well, i don't know what the future is. i can tell you this. my nephew joe kennedy is in congress today. and there he has i think 85 cousins. they get together on the cape
during july and august. the talk almost continuously about politics. i think virtually all of them will end up in some way doing public service, because that's just a part of the institutional culture and dna of our family. so i think you're going to see a lot of kennedys. people will be tired of kennedys very soon [ laughter ] >> i think one of the greatest legacies of president kennedy was that altered view of the united states. we were a force for good, that we understood that corporate domination at home was the partner of imperialism and truculence abroad, that the national security state was incompatible with our constitutional freedoms. and we had to win over the world by our example, by living up to
our ideals, by perfecting the union and not by force of arms. and that we were going to be remembered, which was what president kennedy used to say, not by the wealth of our citizens or the size of our armies or the power of our weapons or industry but rather how we care for the least fortunate members of our society, how strongly we resisted the seduction of the notion that we can advance ourselves as people by leaving our poor brothers and sisters behind, and how we made ourselves an an example, of a template for democracy for the rest of the world. not by beating people up, not by fighting the wars for them, but by practicing social justice at home and by making ourselves a model for justice and for democracy. and i think that people around the world saw that. and kerry and i almost every
week we meet kids, people from africa, adults, whose name is kennedy. we still go into huts in latin america and africa which have pictures of my uncle or my father, and people still remembered. and that made an impression. what his pursuit for peace, his pursuit of civil rights and justice at home was something that even if the press tries to deny it or historians, whatever, it's something that at that time and for a generation afterwards virtually everybody in the world recognized this was america at its best. >> i completely agree with that. kerry and robert, it's been great talking to you. thank you both very much indeed. i appreciate it. >> thank you, piers. >> thank you. >> when we come back, ten people who are carrying on john f. kennedy's legacy of service. our cnn heroes for 2013.
cnn heroes an all-star tribute our celebration of the top ten heroes of the year is just a week away. december 1st at 8:00 p.m. eastern. right now our entertainment correspondent has behind the scenes look at preparations for the big event. >> i'm nischelle turner and i'm going to give you a backstage look at what it takes to put this whole cnn heroes award show together. ready for this? it's going to be cool. come with me. this year, we're back in new york, baby, at the american museum of natural history where the very first cnn heroes took place seven years ago. >> i can't believe it's been that long. we're thrilled to be back here. it's iconic and it's beautiful. >> the first stop of the night for these everyday heroes and celebrities, the red carpet. >> wow. look at it in here. look at all these lights.
work like this takes hundreds of people to set up working around the clock. and then the centerpiece of the evening. >> this year's cnn will be honored right here in the whale room where one of the museum's biggest treasures will be watching over us all night. i'm talking about this lady right here. that's not all that has to be done to get ready for this special event. 51 tables to set up, nine cameras to put in place, and one giant video monitor. >> you wouldn't believe what it takes to put something like this on. we had about two days to bring it in and set it all up. >> transforming this beautiful room from this to this all to honor ten everyday people who are changing the world. >> it's just a nice thing to honor these people. these people don't get the limelight, the don't get honored, the don't have celebrities saying their names and praising their work. it's a nice thing for them, nice pat on the back. >> a pat opt back from cnn that becomes a very special night of inspiration.
>> i was there along with host anderson cooper and a variety of celebrity presenters and performers. it was quite an evening. see it for yourself. cnn heroes an all-star tribute next sunday, december 1st at 8:00 p.m. eastern. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com in the average man's life there are two or three emotional experiences burned into his heart and his brain. and no matter what happens to me, i'll remember november 22nd as long as i live. >> there has been an attempt on the life of president kennedy. >> they are combing the floors of the texas school book depository building to find the assassin. >> i'm just a patsy. >> oswald has been shot at point-blank range fired into his stomach. police are working on the