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The Public Hero Who Saved President Ford from a Bullet Was Rewarded With Humiliation And His Life Publicly Destroyed

By Andrew Alpin, 22 March 2018

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Oliver Sipple was the man credited with saving the life of President Gerald Ford on September 22, `1975. Had Sipple not sprung into action on that ill-fated day, the assassin a troubled woman would have certainly made her second bullet sure of its target. But! Instead of Sipple gaining recognition for his deed, he somehow became infamous and his reputation and life almost publicly destroyed. Here are the reasons why.

1Who was Oliver Sipple?

Oliver Sipple 33 was a former US Marine. He was part of the crowd gathered in San Francisco on September 22, 1975, when President Gerald Ford visited the city. Little did he know that the day was about to change his life and the woman next to him was to be instrumental in it. She was Sara Jane Moore, who was almost successful in assassinating Ford had it not been for Sipple. This was to be the second failed attempt on Ford after the Lynette Fromme of the Manson Family tried doing so 17 days earlier. 

Who was Oliver Sipple

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2Sipple saves the president

Moore a troubled housewife had a revolver with her. When she fired, her first shot narrowly missed Ford. When she aimed for her second shot, Sipple sprang instantaneously. He grabbed Moore's arm and deflected her aim. The bullet hit a taxi driver instead who fortunately survived. At the moment, Sipple was a hero but that was not to last. 

Sipple saves the president

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3Sipple’s orientation was leaked to the press by Harvey Milk

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The famous gay activist of the time was Harvey Milk. It was this man who leaked the fact of Sipple’s orientation to the press. Both men knew each other and while Milk was contesting the election as San Francisco's city supervisor, Sipple was one of his campaign volunteers. So much for confidantes. Milk thought by doing so, he would boost his advocacy of gay rights. He leaked the information that Sipple was gay to Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle without Sipple’s consent. 

Harvey Milk

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4Sipple gained media and public attention for the wrong reasons

Media scrutiny then went on to ensure the focus wasn’t on Sipple’s heroic deed but rather his personal preferences. Although Sipple was an active member for gay activism in San Francisco, back home in Detroit where he was raised, his personal life was a secret. The media ensured that wasn’t a secret anymore. The headlines then began focusing on how a gay hero saved President Ford. Which today may not have been a focal point of negativity but in those days it was different. Society was more rigid in their acceptance of the LGBT community. Even families disowned their own family members who were gay. 

Sipple gained media and public attention

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