October 18, 2004 by

Pierre Salinger

1 comment

Categories: Government, Media, Military, Writers/Editors

psalinger.jpgPierre Emil George Salinger, a veteran journalist and former White House spokesman, died on Oct. 16. Cause of death was not released. He was 79.
The California native spent a year at San Francisco State College before dropping out to enlist in the Navy. During World War II, he commanded a sub chaser in the Pacific theater and reached the rank of lieutenant. Salinger returned to the states in 1946, finished college and resumed his journalism career.
After writing for the San Francisco Chronicle and editing Collier’s Magazine, Salinger joined Robert F. Kennedy’s senatorial staff. He served as chief investigator for the Select Committee to Investigate Improper Activities in Labor-Management Relations, then rose to the press secretary position when John F. Kennedy won the presidential election.
Salinger ran the first live presidential press conference in 1961 and encouraged Kennedy to appear on television, then a new medium. Salinger stayed on to serve as President Lyndon B. Johnson’s press secretary when Kennedy was assassinated. He left the post in 1964 to complete the term of Sen. Clair Engle (D-Calif.), who died in office. Five months later, Salinger lost his bid to stay in the Senate to actor George Murphy.
Salinger attempted a few commercial ventures in the late 1960s before landing a job as a roving correspondent for the French news magazine L’Express. In 1977, he switched to broadcast journalism and joined ABC News. Over the next two decades, Salinger would serve as the network’s Paris bureau chief, chief foreign correspondent and senior editor in London.
One of his most memorable stories was the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island. Salinger said he possessed government documents that showed the Navy was testing missiles off the coast of New York that day, and claimed the plane was accidentally brought down by friendly fire. The National Transportation Safety Board found no evidence of a missile strike and concluded that a center fuel tank explosion destroyed the Paris-bound jumbo jet and killed its 230 passengers.
Salinger and his wife moved to France in 2000 to protest George W. Bush’s presidency and to run an inn. He received numerous honors during his lifetime, including the George Polk Award and the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest civilian award. The author of more than a dozen books, Salinger published his autobiography, “P.S.: A Memoir,” in 2001.
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One Response to Pierre Salinger

  1. George A. Salinger

    Pierre was my brother. We grew up very close to one another and di a lot of things together. When Pierre was Press Secretary, I had made a trip with my brother Herbert to DC. I stayed at his home at Lake Barcroft and went to the White House each day with him for almost a week. He would stand on his desk to give press briefings. On one occasion, shortly before President Kennedy was to deliver an address on the resumption of nucleur testing in the air, he took me into the Cabinet Office. The President came in and we spent about five minutes alone talking. I will never forget it.
    Because of a serious drinking problem, Pierre cut off seeing or speaking with me. We saw each other a few times after I got sober in June of 1976, but the relationship was never the same. I miss him, always loved him, and know he is in a far better place. I know he is proud of me and how far I have come as an ordained Deacon in the Catholic Church.

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