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Attempted Reagan Assassin Becomes Country Singer, Faces 'Cancel Culture'

8 April 2024 | 6:10 pm | Emma Newbury

“With all of my concerts canceled, it’s a fair statement to say I’m a victim of cancel culture!”

John Hinckley

John Hinckley (AP Photo)

While country music has its famous bouts of so-called “murder ballads” about slaying an ex-boyfriend or running from the law, the genre has probably never experienced the participation of a musician who tried to assassinate a US president. 

In 1981, John Hinckley Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan outside Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. Luckily for Reagan, the bullet was not fatal. As for Hinckley, the 25-year-old would be found not guilty by reason of insanity – he was suffering from erotomania and believed that by taking the plot of Taxi Driver into his own hands, he could impress actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was infatuated.

After recovering and being released from psychiatric care in 2016, Hinckley began to channel his time once dedicated to Foster into songwriting and performance. While the singer garnered an audience over several years and released music through his own label, Emporia Records, live shows could never quite make it to fruition, with most venue owners cancelling to avoid backlash. 

John Hinckley spoke to The New York Post about the conundrum in March, citing himself as a victim of so-called “cancel culture”. 

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“They book me and then the show gets announced and then the venue starts getting backlash,” he told the Post over the phone from his Williamsburg, Virginia home. “The owners always cave, they cancel. It’s happened so many times, it’s kinda what I expect.

“I don’t really get upset,” the musician admitted, aware of the backlash he has faced for his past action. 

The cancellation of Hinckley’s shows raises a valid question to what degree a person’s past mistakes can be forgiven, and how much of “cancel culture” is valid. While Hinckley is trying to get on with his live in a healthy way, is his past assassination attempt a bit too prominent to move from? 

Instead of giving up the idea of playing live shows, Hinckley is looking into creating his own music venue, and states on X (formerly Twitter) that he now stands for gun reform.