Franklin Delano Roosevelt and a Man Angry at the World
Teddy was not the only Roosevelt to narrowly escape death by a deranged man. On February 5, 1933, just weeks before being sworn in, Franklin Delano Roosevelt experienced his own brush with mortality, under chillingly similar circumstances. Shortly after finishing a speech in Miami and surrounded by dignitaries in his open-air touring car, a man shouts; “Too many people are starving” and fires five shots in the direction of Roosevelt and his accompaniment. The five bullets hit five separate people but astoundingly missed the man soon to be president.
One of the men, Mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, was severely injured and later died of his wounds. The crowd reacted to the shooter in the same way that they did when FDR’s cousin, Teddy Roosevelt, was shot by a deranged drifter. Also much like Teddy, if FDR did not command the crowd to leave the man’s fate to the justice system, the shooter may have been killed on the spot by the angry mob.
The shooter was a bricklayer and an immigrant from Italy who suffered from severe abdominal pains; his name was Giuseppe Zangara. Seemingly upset at everything and everyone, he defiantly proclaimed in his thick Italian accent and broken English: “I don’t like no peoples”. Combative with everyone, he even taunted the judge during his sentencing, asking for more time. When Anton Cermak died a few days later, he received substantially less time, but in return, received a death sentence. Five weeks after he tried to kill the president, he was himself executed via electrocution. Recalcitrant to the end, his last words were: “All capitalists lousy bunch of crooks. Go ahead. Pusha da button!”
Some believe FDR was never the real target of the assassination, claiming that Zangara’s true target was Anton Cermak. Cermak may have angered Chicago mob bosses who then wanted him killed. However, such claims are unsubstantiated. Others believe he was a socialist revolutionary due to his constant criticism of capitalism and emphasis on class issues. Most others believe he was simply a desperate man, constantly suffering from pain, lashing out at the world, blaming others for his sorrows and could have possibly been insane.
Perhaps all we need to know is what he said shortly before his death: ”I do not hate Mr. Roosevelt personally, I hate all Presidents, no matter from what country they come, and I hate all officials and everybody who is rich.” While imprisoned, Zangara wrote, “I was always against the Capitalist. This is the reason why I wanted to kill the head of this government.” While his sanity may certainly be questioned, his intentions, it seems, were obvious.