LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
Police Follow a Potential Lead in Jimmy Hoffa Case
Aired July 16, 2003 - 19:25 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: One of the biggest mysteries for nearly 30 years has been the whereabouts of one-time Teamsters union leader James R. Hoffa.
Now, Hoffa vanished on a July day in 1975 from a parking lot about 25 miles north of Detroit. Well, since then there have been dozens of theories of what happened to him. There have been thousands of jokes about it, as well.
Today working on a tip from a convicted killer, police spent several hours draining a swimming pool right there and digging in the back yard of a suburban Detroit home.
Police took a chance on the information being reliable since it came from a man who already admitted burying a man in the same yard. The informant said they would find a brief case buried there that supposedly contained information related to the case.
Still, after six hours, nothing. But investigators say they'll keep checking.
Hoffa, a lightning rod for controversy, spent time in prison for jury tampering. He said he was on his way to meet with a reputed Mobster on the day he disappeared. No one was ever charged.
Arthur Sloane met Jimmy Hoffa in 1962, and spent years researching the labor leader and talking to relatives, friends and associates for his book, "Hoffa." He joins me now from Wilmington, Delaware.
Arthur, thanks for being with us. Were you surprised police have so far come up with nothing?
ARTHUR SLOANE, AUTHOR, "HOFFA": No, not really. There have been all kinds of aborted efforts to find Hoffa, all kinds of reports of where the body is. And nothing has come up yet and it's been 28 years.
So given that and given the credentials of the man, Mr. Farrell (ph), the convicted prisoner who claims to know where the body is and has led the Oakland County police force to this site, I am very skeptical.
He gave, as I think you said, a false report or at least one that went nowhere, a wild goose chase kind of report about Hoffa previously and, of course, he is a convicted murderer. Not the greatest credential credentials. On the other hand, you never know. COOPER: At the time that he disappeared, I mean, what was the thinking about why he disappeared?
SLOANE: Hoffa was a fearless guy. He could say no to the mob as well as yes to the mob. His handpicked successor, with whom he later broke, Frank Fitzsimmons, could only say yes to the mob.
Hoffa, when he got out of prison for, as has been said, jury tampering and also for mail and wire fraud, just before Christmas in 1972, was given a parole restriction, saying that he could not run for the union leadership, any union office, until 1980. He was enormously popular. I don't think any labor leader has ever had the adulation of the rank and file that Jimmy Hoffa.
COOPER: What was it about him that made him so popular? I mean, I know you spent time with him. What kind of a guy was he?
SLOANE: He was a very accessible guy, an amazingly accessible fellow. The Teamsters had in those days two million members. Hoffa concentrated on the 500,000 of them in the trucking segment, but that's a lot of people, obviously.
He was there all the time. All over the country, taking a turn behind the wheel of new equipment of the truck drivers, touring new terminals, and giving out his phone number, his personal home phone numbers in essentially all his speeches.
SLOANE: And he was a very accessible...
COOPER: Very personable.
COOPER: Bottom line, do you think this mystery is ever going to get solved? I mean, this has been...
COOPERL: ... the butt of a million jokes. On Letterman all the time. Even know, even people who don't know who Jimmy Hoffa was know the joke. Do you think it's ever going to get solved?
SLOANE: No. In a word, no. My students, if their life depended on it, couldn't name any other labor leader, have all heard of Jimmy Hoffa if only because of as you said Letterman and Jay Leno and "Saturday Night Live" and "Mad Magazine." None of which can go very long without a Jimmy Hoffa joke.
Here's an example of the genre, Anderson. You know the answer to this. Who's the last person who ever saw Jimmy Hoffa?
COOPER: I don't know.
SLOANE: And the answer is Jacques Cousteau. He sleeps with the fishes, so to speak. So he's a -- I think it's always news when anything related to Hoffa turns up, as in today's situation.
COOPER: Certainly the media loves a mystery, and this one certainly just seems to continue.
Arthur Sloane, appreciate you joining us and telling us about your reminiscences of this man. Thank you.
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