Secret Service Agents Got 'Bombed' Before JFK Killing

But would sober agents have stopped the assassination?
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2014 5:10 PM CDT
Secret Service Got 'Bombed' on Night Before JFK Killing
This Nov. 22, 1963 file photo shows President John F. Kennedy riding in motorcade with first lady Jacqueline Kenndy before he was shot in Dallas, Texas.   (AP Photo, file)

Many blame the JFK assassination on roguish figures like Fidel Castro or the Mob, but few consider the Secret Service agents themselves—some of whom were out boozing til late the night before. Sound familiar? In the wake of recent Secret Service scandals, Vanity Fair reports that six agents were out drinking late at a Dallas coffee house (that allowed illegal drinking) in the wee hours of November 22, 1963, and at least four of them protected Kennedy the next day. None took action to save Kennedy between the first bullet and second, fatal, one; the only one who acted pushed the First Lady back into her seat. "I told those playboys that someone was going to get the president killed if they kept acting like they did," an agent reportedly cried out in Chicago after JFK was shot. "Now it's happened."

But the Service has long been an organization for tough, overworked guys who shrug off sleep and prove their mettle with hard drinking. Some say Kennedy's risk-taking, womanizing ways made things worse by setting a poor example. Either way, the Service admitted to their outing but pretty much denied any negative effect: "That’s a tough one," says Paul Landis, who followed behind JFK's car. "I don’t think that affected me. That’s an arguable point." But when the Dallas cafe manager fessed up 20 years later, he described a night worthy of a hangover, saying the agents downed drinks spiked with 151- or 190-proof booze: "Those guys were bombed," he says. One of the agents who was at the cafe, Clint Hill, says he's disappointed with the latest agency lapses—and tells the AP that agents today should "change their attitude, be more observant and pay more attention to detail." (More Secret Service stories.)

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