Investigative Reporter debunks the alleged Covington-Hinckley Connection

As of 2011 Harold Covington still claims that he signed John Hinckley's NSPA membership card, and implies that Hinckley had the card in his wallet when he attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, with the result that Federal agents investigated Covington for a possible connection to the assassination-attempt. Contemporary journalism, however, mentions no such membership card, but states that it was Covington who went to the Secret Service claiming that Hinckley had been a member of his organization. The Feds ultimately dismissed Covington's claim as empty publicity-seeking.

From The Oklahoman, 3 April 1981, page 8.
An image of the original article may be viewed here

Officials Viewing Hinckley Nazi Tie As Publicity Tale

By Jack Taylor

Information provided by two neo-Nazis linking John Warnock Hinckley Jr., accused in the assassination attempt on President Reagan, as a one-time member of their fascist-style organization is being viewed by Federal authorities as vague and insignificant, The Daily Oklahoman learned Thursday.

And, one of the self-styled Nazi leaders said a widely publicized photograph distributed by The Associated Press and purported to be Hinckley attired in a Nazi stormtrooper uniform "is not Hinckley."

Absence of documentary proof and inconsistencies in statements from neo-Nazis Michael C. Allen of Chicago and Harold A. Covington of Raleigh, N.C., have led some federal authorities to believe the Hinckley-Nazi connection may have been fabricated for publicity purposes. 

Both Allen and Covington maintain Hinckley joined their National Socialist Party of America three years ago, but both concede their recollections stem from memories from one brief meeting on March 12, 1978. 

It's not a remarkable memory, Allen said  during a telephone interview from his Chicago headquarters. "All I've stated was that I've met the man and  talked to him for 15 minutes. Now, anybody can remember that much. That's the only time I ever saw the man."

Covington, who claims to have corresponded with Hinckley but destroyed the letters, said Allen "knew the guy a lot better than I did" and maintained that neither man has been "making it (the story) up."

Allen and Covington are the only persons to claim Hinckley was affiliated with any neo-Nazi organization, though a free-lance photographer who was at the March 1978 meeting in Saint Louis, sold The AP a photo for $2700 which he said was apparently of Hinckley. 

"Take my word for it!" Allen said, however. "That is not Hinckley . . . It's the wrong photograph."

Allen said the man in the AP photo is one of his group's officers, as indicated by the uniform. He said Hinckley would not have had a uniform at the time because he had not yet joined.

Tom Potts, an AP editor in Chicago, confirmed the wire service paid free-lance photographer John Wells $2700 for the picture.

Potts also said Allen had told The AP the man pictured was not Hinckley but another man.

Potts, however, said The AP compared the picture with a photograph of the other man and was not convinced. He said The AP released the picture on Wells' sole identification of the man.

Both William J. Williamson, special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service in Charlotte, N.C., and Kenneth Gianaoules, the Secret Service agent in charge in Chicago, said information provided by Allen and Covington is "vague."

Williamson said Covington came to agents in Raleigh and volunteered information about a Hinckley affiliation with the organization, but that it was considered "minor."

"Covington is just very vague. He said he corresponded with him, but the letters were destroyed and he didn't remember what was in them."

The Secret Service officials said that based on Covington's contentions, his memory would "certainly" be "something that is unusual." 

Both Williamson and Gianoules refused to say that the information had been totally discounted, since it is still being evaluated and is being forwarded to the FBI, the agency investigating the assassination attempt. 

But Williamson pointed out that only Allen and Covington have made such assertions, and Gianaoules observed that "they certainly have gotten a lot of mileage" from the news media.

An FBI spokesman in Washington declined comment, though both that agency and the Secret Service have been reportedly unable to substantiate any Hinckley involvement with the neo-Nazi organization.

Covington claimed Hinckley drove to St. Louis with Texas-based neo-Nazis to attend a rally on March 12, 1978. 

Houston police who kept track of the Texas fascists, however, said Hinckley was not among them. 

Allen said Hinckley drove to St. Louis alone.

According to Allen, Hinckley then drove to Chicago on March 13, a Monday, to officially join the organization and left a day or so later.

Records at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where Hinckley was a student at the time, showed he was in class on March 16. 

Allen also claims his organization has proof of Hinckley's connection through letters from Hinckley to Covington, which he maintained Covington only recently told Allen he still possesses.

"Now I rest my case," Allen said. "Harold Covington has it. When he tells me he's got something, he's got it."

But Covington said, "I destroyed them all." 

Both Allen and Covington deny they are only seeking publicity, as suggested by police authorities in St. Louis. 

But, Allen has an appreciation for the value of publicity, as clearly indicated by his own statements that he intends to reveal even more startling information about Hinckley at a press conference in the near future.

That information, Allen said, "will possibly shed more light into the Hinckley connection -- the Hinckley-Nazi connection -- as well as some new things that have come to light. When I release it, I guarantee you it will make the wire services sizzle and crackle -- it's that hot.

The Feds probably found it very easy to determine that Covington's story was bogus, since it later came to light that the second banana vouching for Covington's story, Michael C. Allen, was a BATF informant (Elizabeth Wheaton, Codename Greenkil).