10 Assassination Attempts That Were Shown On Television




An assassination typically refers to a controversial figure being killed for political reasons. Throughout history, political assassinations have taken place due to differences in ideological, military or religious beliefs, and occasionally through a simple desire for notoriety. Assassinations are a common tool for insurgents, in an attempt to force political figures to stand down.

Where these killings have gained heavy media coverage, it can also bring an international spotlight onto an insurgency’s cause. With the rise of mass media, many assassins have aimed to carry out their killings during live broadcasts or during major events. These assassinations are rarely impulsive acts and are generally planned for months, even years, in advance. Several pieces of footage from these various murders have gone on to be iconic in popular culture and placed under great public scrutiny.

This list takes a look at ten of the most famous political assassination attempts that were shown on television. From botched murders during live broadcasts to evidential footage that was repeatedly aired in the aftermath, each of these assassinations had an audience of millions. Many of the clips shown here were deemed suitable for broadcast by various channels across the world, but please note that there is disturbing content ahead…


10. Ronald Reagan

Bizarrely, the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981 began with one man’s obsession with actress Jodie Foster. John Hinckley, Jr. was obsessed with Foster due to erotomania, trailing her across the country for years and writing her many letters.

After being rejected on multiple occasions, Hinckley decided to emulate his hero Travis Bickle from the film Taxi Driver, and attempt a political assassination. President Ronald Reagan and three others were shot by Hinckley after leaving a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Incredibly, all four initially survived the attempt. Press Secretary James Brady received the most severe wound, and was paralysed after receiving a gunshot wound in the head.

Brady died 33 years later, of injuries that were deemed directly related to the shooting. The incident was captured by several news cameras in the area, and the footage was famously broadcast around the world.

9. Hamid Karzai

Hamid Karzai is the 12th (and current) President of Afghanistan, and has had multiple assassination attempts on his life throughout his political career. One of the most notable of these attempts was in April 2008, when insurgents allegedly from the Haqqani network attacked a military parade that Karzai was attending.

Three Taliban attackers used automatic weapons and RPGs, firing openly on the parade near where Karzai was located. Karzai himself was unharmed from the incident, but three bystanders were killed and ten seriously injured. The event was covered live on television, although it was cut off shortly after the first few shots were fired.

Taliban spokesman Zabiulla Mujahid later claimed that they, “just wanted to show to the world that we can attack anywhere we want to.”

8. Mahmoud al-Mabhouh

One of the founders of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was a senior Hamas military commander made famous for his high-profile assassination in Dubai. Al-Mabhouh’s murder caused a diplomatic crisis, after allegations that the assassination was conducted by the Israeli foreign intelligence agency. The assassination of al-Mabhouh itself was not captured by television cameras, but CCTV footage was widely circulated among the media, and used extensively in following investigations.

Al-Mabhouh was murdered in January 2010, at the Rotana Hotel in Dubai. Internationally, the blame was placed on Israeli Mossad assassins, which was supported by the Dubai police force. Several arrests were made against Israeli officials across the world, after it was alleged that the assassinations were using fake passports to enter the United Arab Emirates.

7. Ahmed Dogan

Ahmed Dogan is a Bulgarian politician that was flung into the international spotlight following striking images of an ‘assassination’ attempt that was broadcast live on television.

During a party congress early last year, a young male held a pistol up to Dogan’s head during a party congress, and attempted to fire. It initially appeared that Dogan had experienced a miraculous escape from death, after the gun seemed to fail. The man was wrestled to the ground by security guards and attendees, heavily beaten by the crowd before being arrested. It later emerged that the gun was actually a gas pistol, filled with blank rounds.

If the gun had successfully fired, it would have caused only minor injuries at worst. Regardless, the assailant was charged with three and a half years in prison.

6. Robert F. Kennedy

While not as big an international figure as his brother John, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination was an event that shocked the world. Shot only five years after his brother, Robert F. Kennedy was killed during the campaign season for the United States Presidential election in 1968.

Similarly to the more famous JFK assassination, Robert F. Kennedy’s death was an event that led to a number of conspiracy theories. In particular, there were several allegations that the CIA had been involved with the assassination, due in part to the presence of several CIA officers at the scene. Sirhan Sirhan, a young Palestinian immigrant, was convicted of RFK’s murder, although he and his lawyers claimed that he’d been framed.

News footage was recorded in the aftermath just seconds after the shooting, and the audio of the event itself was recorded by a freelance reporter.

5. Inejiro Asanuma

Inejiro Asanuma was the leader of the Japan Socialist Party, known for being a strong advocate of the Chinese Communist Party. Controversial for his socialist views, Asanuma was assassinated during a 1960 televised political debate.

While speaking with regards to the upcoming elections for the House of Representatives, 17-year-old Otoya Yamaguchi ran onstage and ran a wakizashi sword straight through Asanuma’s abdomen, killing him. The footage was broadcast on national television to public outcry and shock. The aftermath of the assassination partially led to the Japan Socialist Party ultimately disbanding and reforming as the Social Democratic Party.

Assassin Yamaguchi committed suicide while in police custody, just weeks after the incident.

4. Jarallah Omar

Jarallah Omar was the deputy secretary-general of the Yemeni Socialist Party, strongly opposed to the Yemeni administration at the time. Omar had a lengthy involvement in his country’s tumultuous history, living as a political prisoner for three years and acting as a guerrilla fighter during the civil war between North and South Yemen.

Shortly after addressing the annual congress of the Islamic Reform Party in 2002, Omar was assassinated by an Islamist hardliner. Omar was shot twice in the chest only minutes after his broadcast speech, with the sound and aftermath captured on Yemen TV.

The 26-year-old assassin, named Ali Ahmad al-Jarallah, was immediately arrested, and sentenced to death the following year.

3. Yitzhak Rabin

The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin is one of the most controversial of all time. Rabin was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel before his death, serving two terms in office. He gained a number of supporters and critics for his involvement in pushing forward the Oslo Accords.

Rabin was present at the end of a rally supporting the Oslo Accords, where he was shot three times with a semi-automatic pistol. The shooter, an Israeli ultranationalist named Yigal Amir, had been deemed no threat by a monitoring agent. There was no live broadcast of the incident, but a piece of footage named the ‘Kempler Video’ (after the filmmaker Roni Kempler) was widely circulated in the media.

The Kempler Video was used during Amir’s trial, which came to a guilty conclusion based largely on the evidence seen in the footage.

2. Lee Harvey Oswald

Lee Harvey Oswald is best known as the lone sniper convicted of assassinating President John F. Kennedy. Due to the extreme media coverage of the JFK assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald’s face was plastered on newspapers and television worldwide, more than any other shooter in history up to that point.

Just two days after the original assassination, Oswald was escorted by officers to a vehicle that was due to take him to a county jail. There were many media personnel present, as Oswald had been kept generally out of sight following the incident, and there were several cameras recording live broadcasts.

A nightclub operator named Jack Ruby stepped from the large crowd and fatally shot Oswald in the chest, during a broadcast that was being watched by millions. Ruby had a guilty charge overturned, but he died before he could be retried.

1. John F. Kennedy

The Assassination of John F. Kennedy is without doubt the most famous political assassination of all time. While travelling in a presidential motorcade, John F. Kennedy was fatally shot by a sniper. The shooter was found in controversial investigations to be Lee Harvey Oswald, acting as a lone gunman.

The footage of the Kennedys travelling in the open top car, amidst a crowd of cheering people has since entered the realm of popular culture. It has become one of the most recognisable pieces of footage ever recorded, primarily thanks to the high levels of media distribution and heavy scrutiny it was placed under. Many people in the immediate aftermath of the assassination believed it to be have been part of a conspiracy, rather than just the work of a killer with no affiliations.

This belief has not died out over the years, and a poll in 2013 showed that 61% of those asked believed that the JFK assassination was part of a conspiracy plot. Do you remember what you were doing when any of these famous political assassinations happened? Are there any that shocked you that didn’t appear here? Let us know in the comments below.

Please wait...

And Now... A Few Links From Our Sponsors