Sirhan Sirhan, in his first television interview, likened his assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy to a Jew killing Adolf Hitler but went on to apologize repeatedly for the 1968 slaying.
Sirhan, who comes up for parole in May, called Kennedy his hero in the hourlong interview, which was shown to reporters Sunday and will be broadcast later this week. But he said he felt betrayed by Kennedy's support for Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.When Kennedy gave a speech favoring the provision of U.S. fighter jets to Israel, "that seemed as though it were a betrayal," said Sirhan, a Jordanian immigrant.
In killing the senator, then the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sirhan said, "I was not doing it out of personal malice toward the man but out of concern for other people."
Sirhan is serving a life term in state prison at Soledad, Calif. He spoke there Tuesday with David Frost for the syndicated program "Inside Edition." The interview is to be broadcast in segments Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Sirhan, 44, has given other interviews, but this was the first in which he agreed to be recorded for broadcast, the show's producers said.
Kennedy "was my hero. He was my champion. He was the protector and the defender of the downtrodden and the disadvantaged," Sirhan told Frost. "I can't say anything except that I am totally sorry and feel nothing but remorse for having caused that tragic death."
In carrying out the killing, "My only connection with Robert Kennedy was his sole support of Israel and his deliberate attempt to send those 50 bombers to Israel to obviously do harm to the Palestinians," Sirhan said.
Although he repeatedly expressed remorse for the killing, Sirhan also argued that Kennedy exercised a "double standard" by favoring both peace in Vietnam and the sale of arms to Israel.
Sirhan said that murder is not an accepted way to settle political differences. But he added, "Imagine if you were a German or a Jew in Hitler's Germany and if you had the opportunity to assassinate Hitler. I'm sure that you would have tried to do that."
Frost replied, "There is no comparison between Hitler and Kennedy."
Sirhan: "Agreed, agreed. But the principle, in sorts, seems to be similar."
Kennedy was shot in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, moments after he claimed victory in California's Democratic presidential primary. As he has before, Sirhan insisted that he acted alone.
Sirhan's death sentence was changed to life imprisonment when the state Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty in 1972, and he became eligible for parole in 1975. He has been turned down for release nine times.
After his last parole rejection, Sirhan said he believed the only way he will leave prison is "in a coffin." In the interview, he accused the California Board of Prison Terms of putting political considerations before the law in denying him parole.