Kennedy aide Pierre Salinger dies in S France

18th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

AVIGNON, France, Oct 17 (AFP) - Pierre Salinger, who served as press secretary to two US presidents, has died of a heart attack near his home in southern France, and is to be buried in his native United States, his French wife said early Sunday.

AVIGNON, France, Oct 17 (AFP) - Pierre Salinger, who served as press secretary to two US presidents, has died of a heart attack near his home in southern France, and is to be buried in his native United States, his French wife said early Sunday.  

Salinger, who was 79, died of a heart attack in a hospital near the country inn to which he moved in early 2000 after the election of George W. Bush whose policies he opposed to the US presidency, Nicole Salinger said.  

The death was announced in the United States by ABC news, for whom Salinger had been a longtime European correspondent in London and Paris.  

"Pierre died Saturday morning in Cavaillon hospital where he had been admitted on Thursday. He had already been taken to hospital the previous week and a pacemaker was fitted," his wife said by telephone from their home in the village of Le Thor near the Provence city of Avignon.  

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin paid tribute to the "passionate writer and journalist".   Salinger, he said, had "contributed relentlessly through his actions and talent to improving the relations of friendship between our two countries" - France and the United States.  

The former journalist had in recent years suffered from aphasia, involving loss of speech. "Some people assumed, wrongly, that he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease," Nicole Salinger, his fourth wife, added.  

Salinger became a familiar figure to TV audiences worldwide after he inaugurated the idea, continued ever since, of allowing live television coverage of White House press conferences.  

He was born in San Francisco on June 14, 1925 to a French mother and German father of Jewish origin. He was to serve with distinction in the US Navy in World War II, fighting in the Pacific.  

In 1955 he began a career in journalism, taking a job at the San Francisco Chronicle.  

He worked for Adlai Stevenson, who ran for the Democrats against Dwight Eisenhower in the 1952 US presidential election, before joining the team of John F. Kennedy.  

He was White House press secretary from 1961 to 1964, serving under Lyndon B. Johnson after Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963.  

Salinger was elected interim senator for California in 1964, following the death of the incumbent, but was defeated in the congressional elections later that year.  

He turned to the business world before returning to politics to aid the presidential bid of Robert Kennedy in 1968.   Robert Kennedy was assassinated in his turn during the election campaign. Salinger later left the United States to live in France until 1987, with a couple of interruptions, working notably as head of ABC's Paris bureau and for the French weekly news magazine L'Express.  

In 1987 he returned to the United States and continued working with ABC until 1993.   He was to briefly hit the headlines again in 1997, when he issued a controversial statement claiming that TWA flight 800, which on July 17, 1996 came down in the Atlantic off the eastern US seaboard with the deaths of all 230 people aboard, had been shot down by a missile fired by the US navy.  

An investigation by the US air safety authorities later found that the craft had exploded accidentally, due to a short-circuit which ignited a fuel tank. There had been widespread speculation at the time that the cause was a bomb on board.  

Salinger's wife said that the couple's decision to settle at the inn they had bought in the village of Le Thor, near Avignon, was sparked by the election of Bush to the presidency.   "He left the United States several years ago after the election of President George W. Bush and lived here in our inn," she said.  

He will be buried, "at a date yet to be determined, in the Arlington military cemetery (in Virginia) where John F. Kennedy rests," she added.  

Head of the board of an American college in Paris, Salinger was also awarded France's prestigious Legion d'honneur.  

He wrote several books, some of them in French.  

The couple also created a non-profit organization which championed works of art aimed at "bringing France and the United States closer together, after all the anti-France campaign," in the US, Nicole Salinger said.  

A mass celebrating Salinger's life is to be held in the Holy Trinity church in the Washington suburb of Georgetown before the burial.


Subject: French News

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