Newly released footage shows President Gerald Ford calmly and carefully recalling how Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a Charles Manson disciple, tried to kill him in a Sacramento park.
The roughly 20-minute interview taped in Washington for Fromme’s trial was released Monday by a federal court as the result of a motion filed by a Sacramento historical group.
In the tape, Ford gestures gently with his hands and sips water as he answers questions from a lawyer about what began as a routine morning in September 1975 before Fromme pushed through a crowd on the street, drew a semi-automatic pistol and pointed it at Ford.
Ford recalled seeing a hand holding the large handgun amid the crowd before a Secret Service agent lunged at Fromme. The gun wasn’t fired, and Ford wasn’t hurt.
The tape had been sealed since the case and was largely forgotten in the years since. It was released at the request of the Eastern District Historical Society, a nonprofit that seeks to preserve the history of the federal court based in Sacramento.
The case was the first in history featuring oral testimony from a sitting president in a criminal trial.
In the taped testimony posted online by The Sacramento Bee, Ford recalled seeing a “weathered” woman in a brightly colored dress as he walked toward a building where he planned to meet with the governor.
She “appeared to want to either shake hands or speak, or at least wanted to get closer to me,” Ford says.
He then saw a large gun coming through the crowd of well-wishers. But when asked if he saw the face of who was holding it, he answered, “No, I did not.”
The gun was about 2 feet away from him, Ford said.
“It was simply the hand with the weapon in it, at a height between my knee and my waist, approximately,” Ford said. He then described a frantic moment when a security agent seized the suspect and Ford was rushed away.
Fromme was sentenced under a law covering assaults on U.S. presidents. She was released from prison in 2009.
Fromme received her nickname from Manson’s “family” because of her voice. She was never implicated in the 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and eight others, for which Manson is serving a life term in California.
Ford died at his Southern California home on Dec. 26, 2006. He was 93.