SLA Kidnapps Hearst

Published: 1974
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI
President Gerald Ford (L), shown in a November 24, 1974 file photo, died at the age of 93 in his home in Rancho Mirage, California on December 26, 2006. President Ford is pictured with Soviet General Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev signing a Joint Communiqué in the conference hall of the Okeansky Sanitarium in Vladivostok, USSR. (UPI Photo/ David Hume Kennerly/Gerald R. Ford Library)

Ed Kirtz: The night of February 4rth started out as a quiet uneventful one for Patty Hearst and her finance, but it didn't stay that way. Before the night ended for the 19 year-old granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, a trio of kidnappers dragged the screaming Patty away. To ensure no interference with their plan, they sprayed their trail with rifle shots as a warning to intruders. After three anxious days, a letter to a radio station from the Symbionese Liberation Army claiming they were holding Patty and then on February 12th, they made their demand, $230 million worth of free food for the poor, the demand came with a tape recording of Patty Hearst.

Patty Hearst: I want to get out of here, but the only way I'm going to do it is if we do it their way and I just hope that you'll do what they say, Dad, and just do it quickly. As they are stopping and starting this tape myself, so that I can collect my stops, so that's why I did so many stops. 16:58 and I think it's truly important that you take their request very seriously.

Ed Kirtz: Patty's father Randolph Hearst I rejected the first demand as unrealistic. He presented a counter plan.

Randolph Hearst: Arrangements have been made for $2 million, to be delivered to a tax exempt charitable organization approved by the Attorney General of California, capable of making a distribution for the benefit of the poor and needy.

Ed Kirtz: The SLA called the new offer insufficient and requested another $4 million to be spent. The free food plan was started and then almost two months to the day after Patty was kidnapped, the story took a strange and bizarre twist. It came about in another tape message from Patty.

Patty Hearst: 17:52 joining the process of Symbionese Liberation Army and fighting for my freedom and the freedom of all the people. I have chosen to stay and fight. One thing which I have learned is that the corporate ruling class will do anything in their power in order to maintain their position of control over the masses even if this means the sacrifice is one of their own.

Ed Kirtz: At first it was hard to believe that Patty Hearst had forsaken her family for the SLA. At least her family didn't believe it, but then photographs taken at a bank robbery show that a girl resembling Patty had participated in the theft. By the end of April, a federal warrant was issued for her arrest, while her parents held to the belief that she had been coerced into doing what she did. It was in May, three months after Patty was kidnapped when the quiet of a peaceful middle-class neighborhood in Los Angeles was shattered with the screams of sirens and the terrifying blast of rifle fire.

Unknown Speaker: At the present time we are pinned down at 54th 18:51 South Central Los Angeles. Police suspect that several members of the Symbionese Liberation Army are inside a single story apartment here on 54th street. Not only the three members of the SLA which were supposedly holed up at a department, by the 19:05 earlier today, but some accomplice that have also joined them, in what is known as an SLA headquarters or hide out here that's been uncovered by the police today. Continuous automatic gun fires, continued for well over 30 minutes, police report that the fire from inside is being returned by automatic weapon. They fired in tear gas, but apparently that has been ineffective for some reason and they believe that the people inside now are wearing tear gas. There you are going to hear a volley of rapid fire going on in the background.

Ed Kirtz: The gun battle and eventual fire killed the six people who were inside the house. They were later identified as members of the SLA, but Patty Hearst was not among them. Her whereabouts remained a mystery as the year came to end. For representative Wilbur Mills of Arkansas, the year was one of mixed blessings. Wills was running for reelection when a dubious incident in which he was involved seemed to put his reelection bid in jeopardy.


A car in which Mills was a passenger was stopped one night by Washington Police for speeding. While police were investigating the incident, one of the occupants raced out of that car and jumped into the Tidal basin. After the police pulled her out of the water, the woman was identified as burlesque stripper Fanne Fox, a friend of Mills. Mills came out of that affair, scratched, bleeding and with a black eye, but survived the election unscathed. Fanne Fox took advantage of the incident. Her performance fee went up to $3,500 a week. Her first appearance under the new fee was in Boston and Wilbur Mills showed up and took a ball on stage of the club where Fanne had just finished her bumps and grinds. Now, Mills is the very powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and some congressman did not look at his recent ethics with much sympathy. A move was made to strip Mills of some of his control and there was talk of stripping him of the chairmanship. Amidst the furore, Mills entered a hospital complaining that he was too tired to work. As for Fanne Fox, now billed as the Tidal Basin bombshell, she made her debut in a New York City burlesque house, complained of a soar foot and gave a very short performance. Some of the customers complained.

Unknown Speaker: Not enough of a two minutes.

Unknown Speaker: It was s fuss, this whole thing is ridiculous.

Unknown Speaker: That was base and choose, she was nude for 12 seconds, and after 12 second there was nothing left.

Unknown Speaker: I thought the show was basically stunk.

Ed Kirtz: And so the Tidal basin Bombshell bombed out. Former Attorney General John Mitchell and Former Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans were both acquitted of charges they had attempted to impede a securities exchange commission investigation of financier Robert Vesco. The charge said Vesco contributed $200,000 to Nixon's campaign for the favor. Some of the President Nixon's former aides were convicted and sentenced to jail terms during 1974, some of their role in the Ellsberg break in. Charles Colson pleaded guilty and received a one to three year sentence and $5,000 fine. John Ehrlichman got a 20 months to five years sentence for conspiring to violate the civil rights of Ellsberg psychiatrist and John Dean, Former White House attorney for Nixon was sentenced to one to three years for his role in the Watergate cover up. After his resignation from the presidency, Nixon remained in the headlines when he was hospitalized for a flare up of Phlebitis in his left leg. After being released from the hospital, his condition worsened and in October Nixon had to have an operation, a blood clotted formed in the former president's leg and if it wasn't removed it could have developed into a lethal condition. Six hours after surgery and Nixon experienced intensive internal bleeding which sent him into shock. Ron Ziggler explained the seriousness of Nixon's condition.

Ron Ziggler: In talking to the doctors and to those who were with the President yesterday afternoon, there is no question about the fact that we almost lost President Nixon yesterday.

Ed Kirtz: Nixon remained on the critical list for a few days, but by the end of the year, he was back in San Clemente recuperating. 1974 was a different year from any other. Certainly it was one that had more than a cheer of gloomy news, the economy, political turmoil, disaster, unemployment, but the year is done and gone with it all the good, the bad, the sorrow, the joy. All that's left are the memories. 1974 in review was a production of audio network of United Press International. This program was produced by Stan Savic. Technical Production and Supervision by Franc Shortino. And this is Ed Kritz.