The Assassination Attempts Against Bill Clinton

Over the course of American history, four out of 45 presidents have been assassinated: Abraham Lincoln in 1865, James A. Garfield in 1881, William McKinley in 1901, and John F. Kennedy in 1963. However, many more presidents have eluded assassination attempts thanks to heroic acts, well-trained guards, misfiring weapons, and sometimes just by dumb luck. 

President Bill Clinton was the target of several assassination plots over the course of his two terms in the White House — three alone in 1994. Bullets, bombs, and planes were all used in attempt to take the 42nd president's life, but none were successful.

Bill Clinton Survived Assassination Attempts At Home and Abroad

In January 1994, Ronald Gene Barbour, a 45-year-old veteran and unemployed limousine driver from Orlando, Florida, sought to kill Bill Clinton by shooting him on his daily jog through the National Mall, according to The New York Times. Only one problem: Clinton was in Europe at the time. What foiled his plot is telling his neighbor, "I have this vision of stomping that woman [Hillary Clinton] to death with hobnail boots," before saying he would be known as Clinton's assassin, according to Mel Ayton in his book, Hunting the President. In 2005, he was sentenced to five years in prison, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Later that year — eerily, on September 11 — Frank Eugene Corder stole a red-and-white Cessna 150 single-engine airplane from Aldino Airport in Maryland and crashed it into the White House lawn at 1:49 a.m. Officials said Corder was targeting the Clinton family by aiming for the residence inside the White House, but died when the plane "crashed through the branches of a magnolia tree planted by Andrew Jackson and came to rest in a crumpled heap two stories below the Clintons' unoccupied bedroom," according to The New York Times. Corder died upon impact. Once again, Clinton averted danger by being elsewhere at the time of the incident — this time the family was staying at nearby Blair House.

Just one month later on October 29, 1994, 26-year-old Francisco Martin Duran of Colorado Springs, Colorado, put on a trench coat and slipped a suicide note into his pocket before heading to the fence surrounding the north lawn of the White House, according to Mel Ayton in his book, Hunting the President. Then, he took out his SKS semiautomatic rifle and began firing in the direction of several men in suits on the grounds — one of whom he believed was Clinton. Duran got 29 rounds off before tourists tackled and subdued him until Secret Service agents took him into custody. "I wish you had shot me," were Duran's only words as he was handcuffed, according to the British Journal of Political Science. This time, Bill Clinton was at the White House where he was watching a football game in the living quarters, but nobody was injured. Duran pleaded not guilty by mounting an insanity defense, which was rejected by the jury, according to The New York Times. He's serving a sentence in a medium-security prison and has a projected release date of 2029.

Unlike the three attempts in 1994, which were carried out in Washington by lone wolves who had an ax to grind with President Clinton, two other attempts were international terrorism assassination plots at the direction of Osama bin Laden. In November 1994, bin Laden's followers planned to bomb Clinton's motorcade during a trip to the Philippines, but the plan was abandoned because the security was impenetrable, according to The Guardian. The second plot in February 1998 came to an end when Clinton's trip to Pakistan was canceled. 

It was later revealed that, in 1996, Bill Clinton narrowly averted bin Laden's third attempt on his life. The president's motorcade was scheduled to cross a bridge in Manila where a bomb had been placed but was rerouted just in time after his security detail had been tipped off, according to the Homeland Security Digital Library.