Jane Fonda has never been one of my favorite people. She may be a great actress (she has won two Oscars, after all), but her socialist activities stink. Nevertheless, for most of the past few decades I have been ambivalent about her.
Of course that was not the case back in 1972 when she chose to travel to North Vietnam and pose for a photo, seen world-wide, sitting at the controls of an NVA anti-aircraft gun used to shoot down American planes.
For agreeing to become a propaganda pawn for the Communist North Vietnamese she was quickly dubbed “Hanoi Jane” by G.I.s.
That little stunt simply will not go away and continues to haunt Fonda even today, when at 73 she wanted to hawk her new book “Prime Time” about aging and life cycles on shopping network QVC recently.
Apparently QVC received so many calls from outraged Vietnam vets that it cancelled her appearance on the show–a fact that infuriated Fonda and caused her to say this on her own website:
“I am, to say the least, deeply disappointed that QVC caved to this kind of insane pressure by some well funded and organized political extremist groups,” Fonda wrote in her blog post. “Bottom line, this has gone on far too long, this spreading of lies about me! None of it is true. NONE OF IT! I love my country. I have never done anything to hurt my country or the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for us.”
I think Jane Fonda has adopted a revisionist view of her own leftist radical history.
The fact is, I interviewed several POWs who were being held prisoner while Jane was making her merry rounds in North Vietnam who told me they experienced severe torture for refusing to meet with Fonda when she visited their POW camp.
This was “real” torture–broken bones, dislocation of joints, burns and beatings–not pseudo-torture such as water-boarding which SEALS and other Special Ops trainees undergo.
As one of them told me: “I told my Vietnamese guards that if they put me in the same room with Jane Fonda I would strangle the bitch.” As a result of that comment, he received an hour’s worth of beatings with bamboo poles.
So when Jane says she never did anything to hurt the men and women who fought for our country she is either lying or conveniently suffering from “selective-memory-itus.”
What she did back in 1972, at the height of the American involvement in Vietnam continues to be inexcusable–no matter how much time has lapsed. Her actions will trail her the rest of her life. Some back in 1972 considered her a traitor. Some still do. Allowing the North Vietnamese to use her as a propaganda tool the way they did comes very close to giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
Her visit certainly didn’t give any aid or comfort to those American POWs who were tortured for refusing to meet with her. G.I.s in the field were just as angered by Fonda’s fondness for their enemy.
I recall several telling me they used her photo during target practice. “We replaced Ho Chi Minh (the father of Communist North Vietnam) with Hanoi Jane’s mug. And our hits went up!”
Fonda has continued to be involved in a number of causes since the Vietnam War ended, including protesting the War in Iraq and an anti-Israel stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I have never shied away from talking about this (her visit to North Vietnam) as I have nothing to hide,” she wrote on her blog. “I could have pointed out (to QVC ) that threats of boycotts are nothing new for me and have never prevented me from having bestselling books and exercise DVDs, films, and a Broadway play.”
Fonda has said she was “naive” back in 1972 when she agreed to travel to North Vietnam. I don’t think being naive is an acceptable excuse. Was she being naive when cases of torture began to emerge among POWs returning to the United States and Fonda called the returning POWs “hypocrites and liars”?
At the time she was quoted as saying: “These were not men who had been tortured. These were not men who had been starved. These were not men who had been brainwashed.”
On the subject of torture in general, Fonda told The New York Times in 1973: “I’m quite sure that there were incidents of torture … but the pilots who were saying it was the policy of the Vietnamese and that it was systematic, I believe that’s a lie.”
Fonda went on to say that the POWs were “military careerists and professional killers” who are “trying to make themselves look self-righteous, but they are war criminals according to the law”.
Though she still defends her anti-war activism, Fonda has acknowledged that the photo incident was “a betrayal” of American forces.
“That two-minute lapse of sanity will haunt me until the day I die,” she wrote in her 2006 autobiography.
As well it should.