she would “clap hands at seeing another monk barbecue show”
Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu (April 15, 1924 – April 24, 2011), the wife of Diem’s younger brother and chief adviser Ngo Dinh Nhu, who was regarded as the First Lady of South Vietnam and often referred to as the Dragon Lady was also known for her harsh remarks about Buddhists said that she would “clap hands at seeing another monk barbecue show”, a comment which further heightened Buddhist discontent. In late June, Diem’s government charged that Thich Quang Duc had been drugged before being forced to commit suicide. The regime also accused Browne of bribing Thich Quang Duc to burn himself.
U.S. President John F. Kennedy, whose government was the main sponsor of Diem’s regime, learned of the self-immolation of Thich Quang Duc when he was handed the morning newspapers while he sat in bed talking to his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, on the phone. Kennedy was reported to have interrupted their conversation about segregation in Alabama by exclaiming “Jesus Christ!”. He later remarked that “no news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one.”
The photograph appeared around the world and changed public sentiment towards the Diem government. In 1964 Malcolm Browne and David Halberstam won the Pulitzer prize for their individual reporting of the Vietnam war and the overthrow of the Diem regime.
In recounting his coverage of the event for PBS’s “Reporting America at War” series, Malcolm Browne discusses what it was like to be in that moment: