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The Heiress of "America's Billionaire King" Who Joined Her Terrorist-Abductors: The Story of Patty Hearst

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
October 4, 2023 3:02 am

The Heiress of "America's Billionaire King" Who Joined Her Terrorist-Abductors: The Story of Patty Hearst

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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October 4, 2023 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, in 1974, Patricia Hearst—heiress of the William Randolph Hearst newspaper empire—was abducted by an American far-left militant organization… but she eventually joined their cause. Here to tell the story is Ashley Hlebinsky.

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Call or just stop by. Grainger. For the ones who get it done. And we continue with Our American Stories. The show where America is the star and the American people. In 1974, Patricia Hearst, heiress of the William Randolph Hearst newspaper empire, was abducted by an American far-left militant organization. And she eventually joined their cause. Here to tell the story is Ashley Lebinski. Ashley is the former co-host of Discovery Channel's Master of Arms. And the former curator in charge of the Cody Firearms Museum. Here's Ashley.

Ashley. The 1960s and 70s in American history was, to say the least, a tumultuous time. Wrought with violence and unrest as various activist groups saw a range of different changes in American culture. So it was anything from civil rights and human rights. But in some cases, these organizations moved into domestic terrorism and sought to completely topple and reconfigure the government. And a lot of those groups were inspired by communism and China's Chairman Mao. But one of the more bizarre stories from this time frame involved a socialite and the first domestic terrorist organization in the country, the Symbionese Liberation Army, which is also known simply as the SLA.

And it's a history about kidnapping, potential brainwashing, and accountability for crimes against the state. Patricia Campbell Hurst, who's better known as Patty, was born in 1954. And if you recognize the name, she was the granddaughter of a publishing dynasty that was created by William Randolph Hurst.

But on February 4th, 1974, this is where her story kind of really takes off. She's a sophomore at UC Berkeley in California, and she's kidnapped in her apartment by the SLA. Now, Hurst had two unfortunate things going for her at that point, which is that her apartment was located near SLA headquarters and the fact that she had a famous name. And what they were really trying to do at this time was leverage the Hurst name in order to get two members of their group out of prison. Although they were in prison for the fact that they killed a superintendent of Oakland schools.

So the likelihood of that being a two-for-one trade is pretty slim to none. And so the effort was futile. So they shifted their gears to deciding to kind of leverage the money of the Hurst family in their mind to do good for those who were impoverished in the state of California. After they were turned down by the state, they demanded that the Hurst family distribute $70 worth of food to each person in need in a specific part of Northern California. However, when the math worked out on that, it would actually have cost the family hundreds of millions of dollars. So as a compromise, the family offered to loan $2 million in order to help feed the poor for one year through what they called people in need.

So they took the steps and made good on this arrangement. But even after this, the SLA refused to release Hurst. According to Hurst, she was held for a week in a closet, blindfolded with her hands tied. And she claimed she was threatened with death and raped and was only let out to eat. And when she wanted to join in political discussions, all of this would result in Hurst later claiming that she was brainwashed for her ultimate involvement in the organization. She was given political documents when after her kidnapping and was taught rhetoric that represented the far left movement that the SLA embraced.

Her account did change somewhat, though. But according to an early recounting, she said that she was offered the choice to be released or to join the SLA. And she made that decision, whether voluntary or involuntary. And she decided to take up arms, quite literally, and become a part of the Symbionese Liberation Army. After she decided to become a part of the SLA, it became very public. And she recorded an audio, again, voluntary or involuntary, that was released on April 3, 1974, where she said that she had, of her own volition, joined the SLA. And in a weird twist, decided that she would go by the name of Tanya. Greetings to the people. This is Tanya.

For those people who still believe that I'm brainwashed or dead, I am a soldier in the People's Army. One of the most famous photos that you see of Patty Hurst during her time with the SLA is during a bank robbery. And this bank robbery occurred on April 15, 1974.

So just shortly after the audio was released. And she was caught on tape robbing the Sunset District branch of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco. And, iconically, she's holding an M1 car beam. After this bank robbery, there were a lot of opinions on her involvement. And the attitude from the court and the state government was that she was a, quote, unquote, common criminal. But those who loved her, wanted to defend her, felt like this wasn't her. And so her fiance actually went on after this to defend her. If anyone had any sympathy to give to Patty at any point along this, the last two months, that they should extend it to her now. Because from the way I know Patty, she's sick, she's exhausted, and she's being humiliated at the hands of a group of people that are determined not to let her get out of this alive. To which Patty Hurst responded, As for my ex-fiance, I don't care if I ever see him again. During the last few months, Steven has shown himself to be a sexist, ageist, pig.

Not that this was a sudden change from the way he always was. Another occurrence happened when Patty Hurst was trying to rescue a fellow SLA member, William Harris, who she will ultimately accuse of a lot of things once his role goes to trial. But she and Harris escaped during an encounter at a sporting goods store.

And this escape would ultimately save her life, because they hijacked several cars and fled. But meanwhile, the police were kind of closing in on other SLA members, and six of the members ended up cornered in a house by the police. And there was an infamous shootout on May 16, 1974. And all six members died, both by being shot, and then there was also a subsequent fire in the house.

And this really kind of took the legs out from under the SLA, but it didn't completely eliminate it. After the shootout, Hurst continued to aid the SLA until she was arrested a year later on September 18, 1975. While she was being booked, she interestingly listed her career as urban gorilla. And when she got a chance to talk to her attorney, she wanted to convey a message to those outside.

And her message was, quote, to tell everybody that I'm smiling, that I feel free and strong, and I send my greetings and love to all my sisters and brothers out there, end quote. And this is now where the story takes, if you can believe it, an even more bizarre turn. At the time of her arrest, Hurst was just 87 pounds. And the defense decided to do several psychological evaluations of her, because they felt that there was a stark decline in her mental health. And in fact, they found that Hurst's IQ before she was kidnapped was much higher than it was after her kidnapping. She also suffered from memory loss and traumatic nightmares. As a result, the defense would argue brainwashing as the reason behind Hurst's involvement with the organization. And she's most infamously associated then with Stockholm syndrome, which is where people begin to have a positive relationship with their captors.

The judge in this case, though, was not really having it and refused to allow psychological experts and the brainwashing claims to be heard in court. And the prosecution argued that they had plenty of evidence post arrest to show that she had maintained her loyalties to the SLA, including recordings of meetings she had after she was arrested, where she spoke very colorfully about the government, as well as the organization that she was a part of. I want to talk about the way I knew our six murdered comrades, because the fascist pig media has, of course, been painting a typically distorted picture of these beautiful sisters and brothers.

The only way we can free ourselves of this fascist dictatorship is by fighting, not with words, but with guns. During this time, though, she did unofficially provide information on SLA activities, which in February of 1976 may have been responded with a bomb that exploded at Hearst Castle. On March 20th, 1976, Hearst was convicted of bank robbery and using a firearm during the commission of a felony. She was initially given the maximum sentence of 35 years, but that was ultimately reduced to seven after the passing of the initial judge. After 22 months, though, President Carter commuted her sentence, allowing her to be released from prison, and then much, much later, President Clinton in 2001 would actually pardon her crimes. After prison, Hearst married Bernard Lee Shaw, who was a member of her security detail and had several children with him. And she would go on to publish a memoir and do many television appearances, both documentaries about her time with the SLA, but then also as an actress. And in an even bigger twist, today she's become passionate about showing dogs at competitions at Westminster.

It's unlikely that the truth will ever really be known about whether she was a willing participant or whether she was brainwashed. Regardless, though, whether you believe Hearst or not, it's clear this is a history that is truly stranger than fiction. And a terrific job on the production, editing and storytelling by our own Greg Hengler. And a special thanks to Ashley Lubinsky, and she's a regular contributor here. And what a story she tells for those of us old enough to remember it. Those pictures of Patty Hearst, the granddaughter of one of the richest men, one of the most powerful men in American history, sitting there at a bank with a machine gun in some of the great battles of our country or fought during the 1960s, cultural battles.

And we bring them to you here. The story of Patty Hearst, the heiress of America's billionaire king who joined her terrorist abductors here on Our American Stories. ABC Thursdays, The Bachelor is entering its golden era with the premiere of The Golden Bachelor. For the first time in The Bachelor franchise history, 72-year-old Gary Turner is setting out to prove it's never too late to fall in love again. Millions are swooning over The Golden Bachelor. The L.A. Times raves the series as a love story years in the making. Glamour magazine exclaims, There's no expiration date on romance. This is must-see TV.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-04 04:52:37 / 2023-10-04 04:58:10 / 6

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