The Bizarre Connection Between John Hinckley Jr And The Bush Family

On the afternoon of March 30, 1981, John Hinckley Jr., a college dropout who'd been kicked out of the American Nazi Party and had been aimlessly wandering the country for months, stuck his arm through the crowd of reporters outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. and pulled the trigger of a .22 caliber pistol, according to The New York Times and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum.

More than 1,500 miles west, in Denver, Colorado, Scott Hinckley, John's older brother and the vice president of his family's Vanderbilt Energy Corp., an independent oil and gas exploration firm, had plans to attend a dinner party later that day, according to UPI. He and a date were invited to the home of Neil Bush, who worked for the Amoco Oil Company, and who also happened to be the son of then Vice President George H.W. Bush under President Ronald Reagan. 

At that moment, back in Washington D.C., Reagan was being shoved into the presidential limousine and whisked away to the hospital.

Bush and Hinckley connections 

John Hinckley Jr., fired six times. One bullet ricocheted off the presidential limousine and hit Ronald Reagan in the left armpit, collapsing his lung and causing profuse bleeding, per History. While the Secret Service drove the president away, three other men lay wounded on the sidewalk: Reagan's press secretary, James Brady, who had been shot in the head; Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy, hit in the side; and Thomas Delahanty, a D.C. police officer, who had been wounded in the neck, per History. John Hinckley Jr., was wrestled to the ground and arrested.

Scott Hinckley had met Neil Bush earlier that year at a party and became friendly with the fourth child of George H. W. Bush, according to the Gannett News Service. After news of the assassination attempt broke, Neil Bush canceled the dinner. In the shooting's aftermath, the media swarmed the Bush family on their connections to the Hinckleys.

Roger Stone's conspiracy theory on the Bush-Hinckley connection 

The only connection between would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr. and the Bush family turned out to be Scott Hinckley and Neil Bush. Neil Bush told reporters he never recalled meeting John Hinckley Jr., per UPI. Hinckley, unlike his older brother Scott, who graduated from Vanderbilt University before joining the family business, couldn't seem to achieve much in life, per The New York Times. He developed narcissistic personality disorder, became obsessed with actress Jody Foster, and believed shooting Reagan would get her attention, per History.

Scott Hinckley tried to have his brother institutionalized just three weeks before the shooting. John Hinckley Sr. nixed the plan, believing it would cause his son more "emotional scars," per UPI. John Hinckley Jr. was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982 for the assassination attempt, and sent to a mental hospital, from which he was released in June 2022, per NPR. Reagan and the other shooting victims recovered, but Brady suffered permanent brain damage. 

Roger Stone, the Republican operative and ally of former president Donald Trump, later seized on the Bush-Hinckley connections to come up with a conspiracy theory about a second shooter involved in the assassination attempt and that George H. W. Bush was behind it, according to CBS News Philadelphia.