Remarks on the Crash of an American Jetliner in Lockerbie, Scotland, and an Informal Exchange With Reporters

 

December 23, 1988

 

I have a little statement here as Nancy and I depart for California to spend the holiday season with family and friends. I want to express our sorrow and our concern for the families and friends of those who died in the crash of the Pan American Flight 103.

 

There are many difficult aspects to this tragedy, but none so compelling as the anguish of those families who will not have their loved ones with them this Christmas season. Christmas is a special time for the young, for those who carry the twin promises of hopes and dreams. And on this flight were the hopes and dreams of many young people, including the tragic loss of so many students from Syracuse University. A tragedy that steals the hopes and dreams from our society magnifies the loss to our society. I know that America and the world mourn the loss of these wonderful people. And I ask that all of our citizens say a special prayer this Christmas for those who have felt the pain of those losses. May God be with them.

 

Q. Mr. President, do you think this was an act of retaliation and that there was a bomb aboard that plane in retaliation for the downing of the Iranian airliner?

 

The President. Well, none of this, Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], is established. The search still goes on. We have no knowledge of how this accident happened. We're trying to find out.

 

Q. Mr. President, do you feel that the American citizens should have been warned about a possible incident, as American diplomats were?

 

The President. I think all the precautions that could be taken were taken, with regard to warning the airline and all. But if you stop to think about it, such a public statement with nothing more to go on than an anonymous telephone call -- you'd literally have closed down the air traffic in the world.

 

Q. Mr. Reagan, the suggestion, though, is that you care more about the diplomats, whom you did warn, than the American public.

 

The President. No, that, as I say, I think that would have been a virtually impossible thing to do on the basis of that telephone call. And then when, if ever, would there be a revival on all airlines?

 

Q. Do you know what's in the black box? Do you get briefed today?

 

The President. No, we do not know that just yet. I've got to go.

 

Q. Do you accept the apology of the Iranian -- not the apology but the statement from the Iranians, that they regret what happened, that they had nothing to do with it?

 

The President. What?

 

Mr. Fitzwater. He wants to know if you accept the Iranian statement that they had nothing to do with it.

 

The President. I think we're going to try to find out by substantial evidence who had anything to do with it.

 

Q. Merry Christmas.

 

The President. Merry Christmas to all of you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 9:47 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House, prior to his departure for Los Angeles, CA. Marlin Fitzwater was Assistant to the President for Press Relations.