Pierre Salinger

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The Independent Online

Pierre Salinger was a cigar smoker, as was his employer, President John F. Kennedy, writes Frank Gray [further to the obituary by Rupert Cornwell, 18 October]. Who better then to ensure the President's humidor was fully stocked before calling a press conference to announce the imposition of the Cuban trade embargo?

Pierre Salinger was a cigar smoker, as was his employer, President John F. Kennedy, writes Frank Gray [further to the obituary by Rupert Cornwell, 18 October]. Who better then to ensure the President's humidor was fully stocked before calling a press conference to announce the imposition of the Cuban trade embargo?

This Salinger was asked to do on 1 March 1961, shortly after JFK was sworn in as President. "I remember him calling me in to ask me to visit as many cigar shops in Washington as I could and obtain stocks of 1,000 of his favourite cigar, the Petite Upmann," he once told me in an interview. "It was an unusual request but at that point I couldn't very well ask him why. He was the president, after all." Salinger explained that the task was not so easily accomplished, as it was the weekend and the cigar shops were closed. The President wanted the supply by the next day. But after much telephoning and knocking on doors, he found he had rounded up some 1,200 of the smallish cigars.

He delivered this news to the Oval Office the following day. The President was happy, then said, "Now, would you go out and organise a press conference, we are going to announce a trade embargo against Cuba."

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