'I am sorry for what I did': John Hinckley says he has 'true remorse' for trying to assassinate Ronald Reagan

'I am sorry for what I did': John Hinckley says he has 'true remorse' for trying to assassinate Ronald Reagan

It was 41 years ago, on March 31, 1981, that President Ronald Reagan — only two months after his inauguration — was shot by then-25-year-old John Hinckley, Jr., who suffered from mental illness and said he carried out the attack to impress actress Jodie Foster. Hinckley developed a deranged obsession with Foster after seeing her performance in Martin Scorsese’s classic 1976 film “Taxi Driver,” starring Robert De Niro, and menaced Foster by stalking her.

Hinckley’s attack wounded not only Reagan, but also, three others — including Press Secretary James Brady, who was left permanently disabled. His wife Sarah Brady became a major gun control activist, which is ironic in light of how vigorously so many other Republicans have opposed even modest gun control.

Hinckley, found mentally unfit to stand trial for his crimes, was confined at the mental health facility at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. for decades. But on June 15, 2022, Reagan’s would-be assassin was granted full unconditional release. Now a free man, Hinckley granted an exclusive interview to CBS News.

During the interview, Hinckley spoke candidly about his actions in 1981 as well as his struggle with mental illness.

“I've been the most scrutinized person in the entire mental health system for 41 years,” Hinckley told CBS News’ Major Garrett.

Hinckley is the first person in U.S. history to have shot a president and been released decades later. During the interview, Hinckley expressed remorse for his actions but said that he doesn’t expect forgiveness for any of his victims; he also mentioned his suicide attempts.

Now 67, Hinckley told Garrett, “I have true remorse for what I did. I know (the victims) probably can't forgive me now, but I just want them to know that I am sorry for what I did…. I'm a completely different person in mind and spirit.”

In 1981, Hinckley had no political motivations for his attempt on Reagan’s life; his only motivation was a sick attempt to impress Foster — who, of course, was horrified by his actions, not impressed.

In a letter sent before the attack, Hinckley told the actress — who was 18 at the time and is now 59 — “Over the past seven months, I've left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me.... The reason I'm going ahead with this attempt now is because I cannot wait any longer to impress you.”

In “Taxi Driver,” Foster played a teenage prostitute named Iris, and De Niro’s character Travis Bickel went on a killing spree in order to rescue Iris from her pimp, played by Harvey Keitel. In one part of the film, Bickel (who suffered from mental illness) began stalking a U.S. senator who was running for president. Stalking was one of the themes in “Taxi Driver,” and Hinckley became a stalker in real life because of his obsession with Foster.

But during the CBS News interview, Hinckley said he had no recollection of how it felt when he shot Reagan and three others in March 1981.

“It's such another lifetime ago…. It's something I don't want to remember,” Hinckley told Garrett. “It was all just so traumatic.”

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