The Lives Of Assassins John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon were all killed by assassins. But what were the assassins' motivations? In his new book, Wolves, Jackals, and Foxes, Kris Hollington argues there are three types of assassins: professionals, amateurs who kill for a cause, and social misfits looking for fame.
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The Lives Of Assassins

The Lives Of Assassins

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John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon were all killed by assassins. But what were the assassins' motivations? In his new book, Wolves, Jackals, and Foxes, Kris Hollington argues there are three types of assassins: professionals, amateurs who kill for a cause, and social misfits looking for fame.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this interview, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is described as an assassin and as head of "one of the most gruesome execution factories that's ever gone in record." While many details of the Iranian president's background remain unclear, the available evidence does not support those allegations.]


This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Sadly, we know all too well how an assassination can affect our lives and our country. The murders of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. immediately come to mind, and we wonder what motivates these killers, what they hope to achieve. A new book divides into them into three categories: professionals or "jackals," who kill on orders or for money; passionate amateurs, "foxes" who kill for a cause; and social misfits in search of fame, "lone wolves." Author Kris Hollington provides many examples of each over the past 55 years, the notorious cases we all know about and many we've forgotten. He reminds us that assassination can play a defining role in world events, that it often backfires when used by governments, and he delves into the psyche of that most elusive and most American of assassins, the lone wolf.

Later in the hour, we'll remember Isaac Hayes. But first, assassins and motives. We'll talk first about lone wolves. What do you think motivates an Arthur Bremer, a Mark David Chapman or a David Hinckley? Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, You could also now reach us on Twitter if you're a user of that online discussion tool. You can find us at Kris Hollington joins us know from the studios of the BBC in London. His book is called, "Wolves, Jackals, and Foxes: The Assassins Who Changed History," and it's nice to have you today on Talk of the Nation.

Mr. KRIS HOLLINGTON (Author, "Wolves, Jackals, and Foxes: The Assassins Who Changed History"): Nice to be here.

CONAN: And in one of your most interesting chapters, you get a look at part of a Secret Service survey of attacks of American presidents and the motives and methodology of lone wolves.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yeah, called the Exceptional Case Study Project. This is a fascinating study of lone wolves and attackers on presidents and other VIPs in America over the past 50 years or so, and yes, they found some very interesting patterns, although they're sort of quick to point out there's no surefire way of sort of assassination personality type, but there were some interesting correlations.

CONAN: And interestingly, you've come to the conclusion that, most of the time anyway, these are psychodramas, not political dramas.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yeah, exactly. It's just all within the troubled mind of the lone individual, just something that they are playing out, almost a movie in their mind, if you like.

CONAN: And there's also something you describe as the pathway to attack.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yes, indeed. This is - the steps that sort of take someone who may be nurturing an idea, because these things start to happen instantly. These people, they nurture these ideas over a long period of time and gradually lead up to them by going through a number of stages. There was a teenager who was arrested just a few days ago in America who Secret Service think may have been plotting to assassinate George Bush, and he'd been acquiring information about Bush's ranch and collecting weaponry, which was quite impressive, if not quite worrying as well.

CONAN: Had a map of a route of a presidential motorcade.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Exactly, yes, one of the most vulnerable times to attack a president. Although, I must say that George Bush's limousine is one of the most secure vehicles in the world.

CONAN: And I have to say, the presidential convoy occasionally runs past our building here in Washington, D.C., and it's quite an impressive sight and there are duplicates of every car. It would be hard to figure out which car he was actually in.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Absolutely. There are two limos on every convoy, and it is indeed an impressive sight. In fact, one of the most impressive things I have ever seen about it is when he goes to the more dangerous parts of the world and goes on his convoy. Then there's a special SUV with a hidden mini-gun in it. So, a brief pops up and the guy pops out with a basic kind of gun you'll find on an M16 or something like that, or an F16, I should say.

CONAN: The White House, you say, receives something on the order of about 500 threats a month, but interestingly, you say, one of the factors in these lone wolves who actually did made some sort of an attempt is that they rarely make threats.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yes. That's something they keep to themselves, which kind of makes sense. I mean, they're usually withdrawn loners who've had an overbearing mother and a dominating father, so they internalize a lot, so they're very quiet. And one of the things that these people always say when journalists ask friends and relatives and say, tell us about him, what was he like? And they know very little about him.

CONAN: He was such a quiet boy.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yeah. Absolutely. Those are exactly the words.

CONAN: And they are characterized, again, there are certainly exceptions, but tend to be young men in their 20s and white.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yes. Strangely enough that there are all these striking patterns, young men, white, in their 20s, loners, sort of middle-class backgrounds, quite wealthy parents, but just something in them just seems to prevent them from succeeding or taking their life in a certain direction. Very often, they've said, the Secret Service study found that these men wanted - they said it would have been nice to have had help on their way in their pathway to attack, if someone had intervened, then they would have responded to that, but it's obviously very difficult to do.

CONAN: We're speaking with Kris Hollington, a British journalist, the author of "Wolves, Jackals, and Foxes: The Assassins Who Changed History." If you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255. Email is Let's start with Steve and Steve is on the line from Cleveland in Ohio.

STEVE (Caller): Yes. Hi. How are you?

CONAN: Very well. Thank you.

STEVE: Actually, I really have to strongly disagree with both of your theories about the lone wolf, because I really think that these are individuals who have very strong political feelings, number one. Number two, I think these are people that have very intense and very compassionate and empathetic feeling for the human race in general, but I think what really triggers that individual to take that final step over the edge are, you know, you're right and there are personal situations in that individual's life that, you know, pushed them in that direction, and these may be things that are beyond that individual's control or perhaps within their control - maybe they didn't make the right decision, you know, one way or the other - but I think it is very complex mindset for an individual to take that step. I think if you're talking about somebody who wants to carry out an attack against a celebrity, a nonpolitical individual, I think we're talking about completely different profile. But I think the political attacker, assassin, lone wolf, as it were, I think is much more complex than...

CONAN: Let's see if we can get an answer. Steve, let's see if we can get an answer.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: You're right. But that's one of the problems with getting down to defining assassinations and the different types of assassins, because we had Hinckley and Bremer, you mentioned in your introduction, both of them just switched targets. It didn't matter to them. Bremer made it clear, you know, he wanted to go for Nixon but when he couldn't get close to Nixon, he chose Wallace because he was more accessible. And that was a big factor in Hinckley's decision as well to go for Reagan.

He previously stalked Carter, but when he saw Carter was going to lose the election, then he went for Reagan, because he'd make a bigger splash. I mean, certainly there are - the lone political assassin is very rare, but the assassin who is, perhaps, part of a political group is - someone like Saddam Hussein, perhaps, who as - many people don't know, as a young man, was part of a group of men who tried to assassinate the then-leader of Iraq, the British-installed leader whose name escapes me for the moment. But again, those sorts of lone assassins are motivated by political ideals, so there are different types. But the recent cases we've seen in the United States are largely sprung from psychodrama rather than politics.

STEVE: I don't agree.

CONAN: Right, Steve. Thanks very much for the call anyway.

STEVE: Thank you so much.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see. We've got Tim on the air. Tim is with us from Edmond, Oklahoma.

TIM (Caller): Yeah, I have three brief points. First of all, I appreciate the author's seriousness of purpose in his scholarship. And so I hate - I understand that, but I have real fundamental questions about the premise and study itself. I've taught history for 40 years and I have a policy, I never mention the name of an assassin in class or in any publication. I don't think people who do this deserve to be credited in any way.

CONAN: If they're after notoriety, Kris Hollington, why do you give it to them?

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Very interesting point. Well, it's inescapable. I mean, you could apply that point then to, you know, all sorts of people who have been responsible for unpleasant acts. But I think, and many people are now coming to think as well, that assassinations are the key points in history. And they're very interesting because they're that - they're at a point where history can go down one road or another. So, they need to studied because they're such, you know, dramatic moments that can absolutely, utterly transform history. I can understand the sensitivity of, you know, discussing such a person, but I mean, that doesn't really matter.

I mean, Bremer doesn't care. Bremer is out of jail now and trying to live as obscure as he possibly can, you know? These guys are not - who still survive are not looking for notoriety anymore, same with Hinckley, just to use these two examples. But by studying them, you know, we can have a better understanding of why they do what they do and perhaps prevent it in the future and also protecting our leaders, too. I mean, we have to mention their names. It can't be helped, but there are lots of nasty individuals throughout history who, you know, we simply name because they're part of history.

CONAN: Tim, you had another point?

TIM: Well, yes, I do. And we could meet both if we could have a middle ground here, if he would just have a dramatist personae at the front of the book and use only pseudonyms or assassin one, assassin two, assassin three. My point is, they don't deserve the credit. Someone who kills Henry IV does not deserve to be remembered on the same page as Henry IV. The last thing, and this - for those of us who were old enough to remember the period of time when Mr. Ford was shot at, there was this awful sense at the time that, you know, if you take a shot at somebody, we'll put you on the cover of Newsweek. And again, it's the notoriety aspect. There's, I think - the newspaper of record should have this information, but I see no reason, if I were doing a book like this, I would have had a list of pseudonyms and I would have divorced - I would have kept the scholarship there, but I would have just said, you know, there's no reason to remember that guy's name.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yeah. Well, interesting points. I don't know if anyone would do that with a history book. I mean, the history is the truth no matter how unpleasant and how unfortunate it is. I don't think anyone's - my book is certainly not trying to promote or do these assassins any favors, and some of these assassins might be seen in a positive light. It may sound strange, but there are many assassins who have struck a blow for freedom by removing tyrants and dictators. So, it swings in roundabouts really.

CONAN: We'll talk more about assassins and assassination and its role in history in a moment and hear about, well, some of the ones used by governments that backfired. Our guest is Kris Hollington. His book is "Wolves, Jackals, and Foxes: The Assassins Who Changed History." Our phone number if you'd like to join us is 800-989-8255, email us at Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The methods they used are as varied as their motives, but assassins do share some things in common. Friday is the most popular day for assassins, especially if the target is a head of state. April, the most common month, followed closely by November. The location, well, most assassinations happen at home, and most with a gun, the weapon of choice. These are some of the facts that Kris Hollington lays out in his book "Wolves, Jackals, and Foxes." He's our guest today and we're talking about the minds and motives of assassins.

If you'd like to talk with him about what drives someone to kill, our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, You can also check at our blog at And Kris Hollington, one of the things you pointed out in the book is that several prominent assassins have been found to have copies of "Day of the Jackal" in their possession, and indeed, that the Spanish assassins, the Basque assassins, rather, who blew up a Spanish prime minister went to see the movie.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yes, I know it seems absolutely incredible, but I guess, in a way, they're kind of doing their research, or you know, who knows? Maybe they're trying to get in the mindset of an assassin and that book does do it particularly well. It is peculiar. Maybe they're just trying to do their research.

CONAN: Maybe - would you be concerned that to some degree your book might be used as a how-to book that some assassin in the future will be found to have a copy of "Wolves, Jackals, and Foxes"?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLINGTON: I don't think so. I don't think it will sort of give them any clue. If anything, what I'm hoping is that it'll give those who protect VIPs the, sort of the knowledge to do that better. It's definitely not a how-to book. It's a history book and it tackles a subject which is sort of being largely neglected, an important subject which I think has been neglected in some respects.

CONAN: Twitter user Juan Navarro asks, what about the victims of assassins? Are their targets peacemakers, war makers, revolutionaries?

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Sorry, say that again.

CONAN: Who are the victims?

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Oh, who are the victims of assassins? Oh, gosh. Absolutely anybody who's considered an important person. Most often - I mean, assassination is defined as the removal of someone - of an important person in the hope that their ideas die with them. So, you're sort of working with that framework. It's the person with ideas. The recent case of Benazir Bhutto is a good case where her assassins completely changed the political scene in Pakistan, absolutely transformed it.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get Matt on the line. Matt's calling us from St. Louis.

MATT (Caller): I wanted to know how you would classify two different assassins, one of them being, of course, Lee Harvey Oswald, and the other one being the Serbian gentleman who killed the Archduke of Austria starting World War I.

CONAN: Gavrilo Princip.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yeah. Well, they are both very interesting characters. I mean, Oswald is interesting because he - although he did, he's a bit of a lone wolf. But he's also perhaps a bit of a fox as well, because he had very strong political views, but - yeah, his psychology is endlessly fascinating, I think, but he seems - he seems to me just to be a real puny man, a real loser - mentally, you know, below average.

But somehow, there was something in him that allowed him to commit the crime of the century, which is, you know, deeply disturbing, and you know, it's very hard to accept that someone so disturbed, and should have been ineffectual, was able to remove the most powerful man on the planet. Similarly, Gavrilo Princip, he was - again, he was perhaps a disturbed character, but he worked with a political group to achieve his ends. So, he was a mixture of, you know, these two. So, you know, these types I've outlined, they're not, you know, hard and fast. You know, they do indeed cross over.

CONAN: But a passionate amateur might be Princip.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Absolutely, yes. I would heartily agree with that.

CONAN: Matt, thanks very much for the call. Interestingly, as you look at that Secret Service study of lone wolves, one of the things that they found was that the psychology of the lone wolf is not all that different, the profile is similar to that of a spree killer - and indeed one the few people you write about is Joseph Paul Franklin, who shot at, among others, Larry Flynt and Vernon Jordan, but was eventually connected with 20 different murders.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yes. Incredibly. He was perhaps the first serial assassin. I mean, they are slightly different from a spree killer as a spree killer is usually someone who loses it and then will kill a lot of people all at once, and then usually take their own lives or will be killed by the authorities in the ensuing battle. Yes, Franklin was fascinating. I mean, usually these spree killers - they're quite similar characters - and they usually have a feeling that they've been wronged somehow by society or a leader, and they sort of strike out against them.

And this crosses over with some lone wolf assassins who just - or I suppose the crazy foxes, in that - and very often it's defined by accessibility. If they feel they have access to the president, then perhaps they will strike at the president, and then you've got your lone assassin. And if not, then they will just strike out at whoever happens to be closest at the time.

With Franklin, Franklin was a one-off. He was this, you know, half-blind but extremely effective sniper who took out as, you know, we hadn't - until the Washington sniper, we hadn't seen anything like it since, a man who went around traveling across the U.S.A., robbing banks, and then shooting dead people who were in mixed race couples, because he was a complete racist. He wanted to start a race war, that was his ambition, and he got to such a point where he was so successful at this that he decided that he was going to target Jimmy Carter. That fortunately, that failed - and then he tried to strike out...

CONAN: Saved by a swamp rabbit.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Saved by a swamp rabbit. Yes, indeed. A very famous photograph of Jimmy Carter splashing around near his farm on a boat with a swamp rabbit - a very angry and rabid swamp rabbit sort of paddling towards him. But somewhere in the bushes, Joseph Franklin was waiting to taking him out, but thanks to the swamp rabbit, Carter left sooner than planned - so perhaps, you know, that rabbit saved his life.

CONAN: But it did inspire the immortal headline, as you point out in the Washington Post, President Attacked by Rabbit.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yes, indeed, a great headline.

CONAN: Let's go to Anthony, Anthony with us from Casper, Wyoming.

ANTHONY (Caller): Good afternoon, hello.



ANTHONY: You made a comment about the White House currently getting 500 threats a month?


ANTHONY: What is - who had - this might be out of context - who has the most, of American presidencies, threats posed against them? If - just out of curiosity, we were wondering ourselves.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yeah, sure. That's a good question. I do happen to know that. I do know that in 1974, President Nixon received 300 threats for the entire year. Now, the current president receives 500 a month, and that is a record.

CONAN: And is that a function of that particular presidency? Or they have been arcing steadily upwards ever since?

Mr. HOLLINGTON: They've been going up. But I think - I remember Clinton famously once complained that he didn't have enough threats against his life. So, he suggested that he wasn't going to go down in history as a great president because people didn't want to see him dead, which is an unusual thing to say. But I think recently, the Secret Service has improved. It's an amazing agency now, and they're able to spot a lot more threats, and they pay attention a lot more to threats. So that's why; they're simply recording many more threats than they used to.

CONAN: Thanks, Anthony.

ANTHONY: Yes, sir. You all take care.

CONAN: Yeah, bye-bye.


CONAN: I did want to get into the cases of government uses of assassination. By far, the smallest proportion but nevertheless, some of the more interesting cases, including one that you say has, well, had dramatic effects on the country of the Congo ever since the murder of Patrice Lumumba back in the 1960s.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yes, as you say, Lumumba was an almost unique case in that he took over the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as it became known, and did a fine job of trying to hand as much of the country's wealth back to the people, but the business interests - in particular Belgium, U.K., and America, who had a lot of mining concessions there, were not happy about this when he, when Lumumba threatened to nationalize, I think it was the tin mines - no, copper mines.

He really, of course, he made a great many powerful enemies and what happens, this has all been now completely proven - is that the Americans, the British, and the Belgian governments conspired together to assassinate Lumumba. And between them - and using Lumumba's enemies, of which he had plenty in the Congo - they managed to execute him. But it was a most extraordinary, extraordinary case. And it was in the - I think in '63 just before...

CONAN: Yeah, just weeks before John Kennedy would have become president, who had a very different view of Patrice Lumumba.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yeah, he would have stepped in. Eisenhower, you know, wanted him gone, and Kennedy, you know, absolutely could have - could possibly have saved his life. And so yes, a unique and fascinating but a terrible case of governments conspiring to assassinate a leader and you know, the country, as we sadly know now, never really recovered.

CONAN: There is also the case, you mentioned Saddam Hussein earlier, an attempted would-be assassin in his youth. But there are plenty of other examples of people who were involved in assassination who later rose to become leaders in their country including in the Congo. But you also point out, in Iran today.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Oh, yes, yes, exactly. The current leader of Iran, extremely disturbing to know that this man is actually in control of a - of a very large and powerful nation. And I think we probably have good reason to be a little bit worried, because Ahmadinejad was - he worked his way through the secret police. He was - became an assassin and later became a - ran one of the most gruesome execution factories that's ever gone in record - I forgot his nickname at the moment but he was given an absolutely a horrific nickname.

CONAN: Thousand bullets, wasn't it?

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Ah, something like that, yes. Who were just - you know, these poor people in Iran would be tortured and then executed. And he was basically in charge of this prison that controlled the list and he worked his way up through that through killing people who were working as - abroad in assassination squads, a really, yes, frightening man.

CONAN: How well-documented do you think that case is? Are you concerned that anti-Iranian - specifically anti-Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, propaganda might have affected that - disinformation, if you will?

Mr. HOLLINGTON: What, now, you mean?

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Well, I wouldn't be too worried about, you know, having - you know, giving them any more negative propaganda that they already have. And I think the Iranians will probably - or his supporters anyway - would be quite happy with us knowing what a, you know, fearsome man he is, someone to be really reckoned with.

CONAN: We're talking with Kris Hollington, the author "Wolves, Jackals, and Foxes: The Assassins Who Changed History." If you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255. Email us, And you're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. Let's get Fred from Burlingame, California on the line.

FRED (Caller): Yeah. Yeah, hello.

CONAN: Hi. You're on the air.


FRED: I'd like to know why is that the assassins and the serial killers - why do they kill themselves after their accomplishment? Why don't they bask in the glory of their triumphs? And, I'm curious about that, if they're so crazy to do these things, why don't they enjoy the accomplishment? And the other thing is there's two celebrated assassins in South Africa, there - the assassinate - the assassin of Hendrik Verwoerd was a Greek Colored and he was put in a mental institution, and Mandela posthumously gave him a - an award. And then there was a Polish immigrant to South Africa who, along with Derby-Lewis, assassinated Christopher Hani. And that guy was absolutely crazy, was considered a KGB agent that the South Africans had flipped into becoming an anti-Communist and...

CONAN: Well, let - Fred, let's see if we can get an answer. And by the way, that first story is told in the book. But in fact I was surprised, and again I guess it depends on the type of assassin, Kris Hollington, but 30 percent of the assassins, according to your chart, get away.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yes, absolutely. Not all of them want notoriety in the sense and very often - I mean, the ones that are caught, you know, they do end up in jail. So it's very hard for them to get much publicity, you know, I'm thinking of the assassination, or would-be assassin of the Pope, Mehmet Agca, I mean. He - you know, languished in jail until quite recently he made the news again. But you know, he's gone off the radar. So, I don't think they get much chance to...

CONAN: The key - of course, the man who shot Pope John Paul.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Yes, exactly. They don't get much chance to bask in glory except perhaps in a very limited circle if they do escape, and many of them do, but the more famous ones - and they do tend to be caught and put away, and largely forgotten about, so certainly they don't get a public voice.

CONAN: Hmm. Let's get Matt on the line. Matt is with us from Tucson, Arizona.

MATT (Caller): Hi. Good afternoon.

CONAN: Good afternoon.

MATT: I was curious, when you mentioned the Jackals, or the paid assassins, you also mentioned how the Secret Service can really - they get - they stop a lot of threats to president and such. How many are those - I mean, it is very often that it's a paid assassin?

CONAN: Oh, one wouldn't think so.

MATT: Yeah. I would, but you're the author, so I thought you might be able to tell me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLINGTON: That's a good question. No. I mean, in the United States, I don't think there's - as far as I'm aware, my own research, there may be - I mean, there are many cases, of course, we don't know exactly what the outcomes were. But it's - I've never heard of a case of someone being a paid assassin paid to take out a United States president.

MATT: Well, I thought maybe with your undercover access you could shed light on that.


Mr. HOLLINGTON: Well, yeah now, well, I have met some - I have met a paid hitman in London, and that was a very scary experience I have to say. But the paid hitmen tend to be very different. You know, who - people who assassinate presidents, they tend to be either political or, you know, just plain crazy. The hitmen who are paid do tend to, you know, they're focusing usually on other criminals because they're being paid by criminals, to assassinate - the professional hitman is a very, very rare, breed outside of the world of criminality, you know.

CONAN: And the movies, yeah.


CONAN: But did he answer the question, how much?

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Sorry, how much?

CONAN: How much would he charge for an assassination?

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Oh, yes, well, it was about - it depended on the importance and the difficult - the difficulty of the job. But it was about 10,000 pounds, so it's 20,000 dollars.

CONAN: Twenty thousand dollars, around.


CONAN: So, life is not cheap.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: No, well, some would say that's quite cheap. I think - I thought it was quite cheap.

CONAN: Have you taken him up on his offer?

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Not I - well, - not absolutely, you know, I mean, he said he was retired and I'm a criminal journalist by trade, which is how I managed to meet him. It wasn't at all easy, let me say that. But it was very, very unnerving meeting someone, and sitting in front of someone who you knew, if someone paid them enough, then they would kill you, you know? It was nothing personal. It's just for the money.

CONAN: Just business.


CONAN: Kris, thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. HOLLINGTON: Pleasure. Enjoyed it.

CONAN: Kris Hollington is the author of "Wolves, Jackals, and Foxes: The Assassins Who Changed History." And he joined us from the studios of the BBC in London. Up next, the man behind "Hot Buttered Soul" who called himself the Black Moses. We remember Isaac Hayes with two who knew him well and with you. Our phone number is 800-989-8255. You can also send us email, Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's Talk Of The Nation from NPR News.

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Correction Aug. 13, 2008

In this interview, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is described as an assassin and as head of "one of the most gruesome execution factories that's ever gone in record." While many details of the Iranian president's background remain unclear, the available evidence does not support those allegations.

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