John F. Kennedy
President Kennedy, Cigars, and The Cuban Embargo

On the evening of February 6, 1962, Press Secretary Pierre Salinger was asked by President Kennedy to track down and purchase 1,000 Cuban cigars “by tomorrow morning”. The next day when Salinger entered the Oval Office and gave President Kennedy the 1,200 Cuban cigars he had procured, he recalls: “He opens up his desk drawer and he pulls out the decree banning all Cuban products from the United States and signs it.” Later that year, Salinger would travel to Russia to met with Soviet leader Khrushchev, who gifted him 250 Cuban cigars. Salinger decided to try and get through customs with the cigars. When he told President Kennedy what he had brought back from Russia, Salinger says that Kennedy instructed him: “Do you realize the scandal there would be in this country if people found out about it? You’ve gotta get rid of these cigars. You’ve got to go to the head of US Customs and turn them over to him and he’s got to write a letter saying that he’s got them, because otherwise we’re going to be in deep trouble.”

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Submitted by: Ilana Faber
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