Oliver Sipple, a 33-year-old ex-Marine, tells how he struck the gun just as it was fired in the direction of President Ford as he left a downtown hotel in San Francisco on Sept. 22, 1975.
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KATHY: Shall we do a combined 4-way Radiolab theme?
LATIF: Yeah, let's just start!
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TOBIN: You're listening to-
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TRACIE: On W...N...Y...CEEE! [LAUGHS]
LATIF: Boop boop boop boop boop.
KATHY: Alright somebody will put that together, yes?
TRACIE: Matt, you got this, right?
[NANCY THEME MUSIC]
VOX 1: From WNYC Studios, this is Nancy.
VOX 2: With your hosts, Tobin Low and Kathy Tu.
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TOBIN: Okay, we have a lot more people in the studio than we normally have.
TOBIN: Everyone, just say your name really quick.
TRACIE: My name is Tracie Hunte, I'm a reporter at Radiolab.
LATIF: And I'm Latif Nasser, and I'm also a reporter at Radiolab.
KATHY: Fun fact: I live in Latif's apartment in Hell's Kitchen.
LATIF: Yeah, that's true. So Kathy and I have a deeper connection here.
KATHY: It's true you guys, don't be jealous.
TRACIE: I will try not to be.
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TOBIN: So we have Latif and Tracie from Radiolab, they just put out this amazing story we can’t stop thinking about. And if we say too much more, we're gonna spoil it, so we're just gonna get right into it. We'll check back in with Latif and Tracie about halfway through, but for now, this is Radiolab's episode called “Oliver Sipple.”
(NOTE: THERE IS A INTERVIEW BEFORE THE SECOND HALF OF THE RADIOLAB STORY)
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KATHY: And we're back. And we are here with Tracie and Latif from Radiolab.
TRACIE: Hello again!
TOBIN: We're all together, like a big, happy, half-gay family.
TOBIN: So, without giving away this incredible story, what were some of the big ideas that working on this story made you think about?
TRACIE: Well I think one of the biggest things is Latif and I are both journalists so obviously one thing that we kind of talked a lot about when we first started reporting this story is if we would have reported on Oliver's sexuality. Would we have been one of those reporters who kind of talked about it. And I think we've gone y’know so far back and forth on that question a lot, because you want to be respectful of people and their private lives, but there's also this larger political question. And I mean, even now, it's like kind of alarming to even think like, oh, a gay person doing something heroic is news. In 1975, it was. [LAUGHING] I'm always like, how far have we come? Not far enough. But what does that exactly mean?
KATHY: I know what you mean, I so what you mean.
TRACIE: Privacy and people's lives are at stake, but also all these other lofty ideas like the First Amendment and the Freedom of the Press.
LATIF: Yeah, exactly, exactly. So there is on one side, there is the Freedom of the Press, there's the First Amendment. But then there is on the flip side of that, is this question of civil rights. How do you...how do you change the public perception of a stigmatized group if that stigma is something that's not apparent and that those people have to come out and own, you know, publicly? And we have that, like, amazing speech from Harvey Milk where he basically says, you know, "Come out, come out, wherever you are." It's something you would see in the movie about him or something. But then hearing it through Oliver Sipple's ears, it sounds so different, it sounds so much harder. So that's kind of another question is like, civil rights and the question of how you fight for a group when maybe you don't wanna be a hero. You don't wanna be the guy in front of everybody. How does that tug of war, you know, play out?
TOBIN: Yeah. Okay, so we're gonna get back into Radiolab's episode. Thank you Tracie, thank you Latif.
TRACIE: Thank you!
LATIF: Thanks for having us.
TOBIN: Okay, here's the second half of “Oliver Sipple.”