Politician Budd Dwyer’s On-Air Suicide
You’ve either never heard of Budd Dwyer in your life or you wish you’d never heard of Budd Dwyer. Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way: Dwyer was a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate and, most notably, the 30th Treasurer of Pennsylvania.
But something went wrong. In the early 80s, the state discovered its employees had overpaid federal taxes due to errors in withholding. Accounting firms lost their shit competing for the multimillion dollar contract to fix the mess. Supposedly, Dwyer had received a bribe from a firm in California who wanted the contract; he maintained his innocence, but he was convicted and scheduled to be sentenced on those charges on January 23, 1987.
Which leads us to January 22, 1987. Dwyer called a press conference the day before his sentencing and the media went nuts, assuming he was going to resign from office. Reporters showed up in droves, ready to get the top story.
Dwyer began by reading what people described as a “rambling polemic about the criminal justice system”, where he speculated on his sentencing, which was a maximum of 55 years in prison and a $300,000 fine. He restated that he was innocent and hadn’t participated in any illegal activities. Then, he stopped reading from his prepared text (leaving out the last page, which contained the true reason for his press conference) and began handing out envelopes to his staffers.
Those in attendance immediately began pleading with him to put the gun down. Dwyer tried to continue his speech but kept the people trying to approach him at bay, telling them, “Don’t, don’t, don’t, this will hurt someone.” After only about 15 seconds, Dwyer put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger, committing suicide in front of a live midday television audience. He died instantly.
In the unread page from his prepared text, Dwyer stated his suicide was meant to be a sacrifice to encourage “the development of a true Justice System here in the United States”. Many years later, the main witness in his trial admitted to lying under oath about Dwyer taking the bribe, effectively clearing his name… far too late.