‘Conservative’ Journalist on Reagan: ‘I Hope the Bastard Bleeds to Death on the Operating Table’

KGB operatives infiltrated conservative media? Wednesday night’s episode of FX’s The Americans imagines that in 1981 a conservative magazine employed a journalist who was really a mole for the KGB. On the day of the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, “Charles Duluth” of the “Conservative Statesman” magazine, proclaims to a KGB operative who he is helping: “Frankly, I hope the bastard bleeds to death on the operating table.”

The Americans is centered around husband and wife KGB sleeper agents (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell as “Philip and Elizabeth Jennings”) who live with their kids as ordinary Americans in suburban Washington, DC when Reagan becomes President.

The February 20 episode, the fourth, plays out on Monday, March 30, 1981, the day John Hinkley shot Reagan.
 

Audio: MP3 clip

Trying to get information on Reagan’s true condition, KGB agent “Philip Jennings” visits “Duluth” to seek Duluth’s help. “Sam Donaldson was there when the gun was fired. I believe him,” Duluth responds, fretting no information is getting out from George Washington University Hospital.

“Duluth” boasts of how he’s fooled the gullible conservatives: “Reagan’s cronies love me. There’s nothing better than a former socialist turned conservative raising the hue and cry about the evils of communism.”

“Jennings” asks if he can get the names of the nurses in the operating room and “Duluth” says he can, then remarking: “Frankly, I hope the bastard bleeds to death on the operating table.” To which, “Jennings” replies: “Your commitment to the struggle always was total.” (The husband and wife KGB duo pretend to be top aides for Vice President Bush and go to the home of one nurse to ply her for information.)

As the day progresses, the Soviet command in Moscow fears Al Haig will lead a coup and so “Phillip” and “Elizabeth” are ordered to break out a stash of weapons and determine the best sight line for a sniper to take out Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger as he walks from the car to his front door. 

Late in the show, as “Philip” watches TV with his teenage daughter, “Duluth” appears on a TV newscast where the host identifies him as “Charles Duluth of Conservative Statesman magazine,” which is also put on-screen. “Duluth” warns: “We are at a dangerous time in human history. A moment like this can change everything. When Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, 37 million people were killed in one of the greatest conflagrations of all time, the first world war. But today the threat is nuclear. It’s billions of lives are at stake, not just millions.”

Previous posts on The Americans:

February 13: “FX’s ‘The Americans’ Imagines Moment When Soviets Learned of Reagan’s Plan to Deploy SDI

January 31:
Three Scenes in FX’s ‘The Americans’ Which Should Hearten Conservatives

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center