To older readers, it may seem unnecessary to revisit the moral depredations of Jane Fonda, which made worldwide headlines during the Vietnam War. But the fact is that countless younger people today, while acquainted with her through her continuing work in movies and television, are unfamiliar with her sordid history. Even many of those who will never forget her 1972 visit to North Vietnam and the famous photographs of her sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft battery, as if she were a soldier preparing to shoot down American aircraft, may not remember – or may never have known about – some of her other, equally offensive actions over the years. Yes, she’s apologized numerous times for those pictures, confessing to “a two-minute lapse of sanity that will haunt me forever”; but her actions on that day were of a piece with her entire history of political activism, for which she has never apologized and which she continues to pursue to this day.
During her 1972 North Vietnam visit alone, for example, she made several radio broadcasts in which she unquestioningly regurgitated her hosts’ propaganda, accusing the U.S. of genocide, calling U.S. soldiers war criminals, and urging President Nixon to read the poetry of Ho Chi Minh. On her return home, she testified that American POWs were being humanely treated; later, when released POWs contradicted her accounts, she called them liars. When she and her second husband, radical activist Tom Hayden, had a son in 1973, they named him Troy, after Nguyen Van Troi, a Viet Cong bomber who, ten years earlier, had tried to assassinate Robert McNamara and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (When Troy married black actress Simone Bent in 2007, Hayden described it as “another step in a long-term goal of mine: the peaceful, nonviolent disappearance of the white race.”)
In a 2002 book, Aid and Comfort, authors Henry Mark Holzer and Erika Holzer demonstrated convincingly that Fonda’s actions in North Vietnam rose to the level of prosecutable treason. By contrast, in her own 2005 memoir, My Life So Far, Fonda offered a radically whitewashed account of that chapter of her life – claiming, for instance, that all she’d done on Hanoi radio was speak from her heart about the cause of peace. In fact she’d read verbatim from scripts prepared by the North Vietnamese government – scripts crammed with crude propaganda exalting Communism and demonizing the U.S. military.
In her book, far from expressing blanket remorse for her North Vietnamese visit, Fonda apologized only for those notorious pictures. “I do not regret,” she wrote, “that I went [to North Vietnam]. My only regret about the trip was that I was photographed sitting in a North Vietnamese antiaircraft gun site.” Indeed, she applauded herself for going to North Vietnam and even suggested that her efforts had helped end the war. On the contrary, as North Vietnamese Colonel Bui Tin later told the Wall Street Journal, “Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda…gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses.” And thus prolonged the war, and helped ensure American defeat.
That’s a bad enough legacy for anyone. But as we say, Fonda’s North Vietnam visit was only one episode in a long, destructive life of useful stoogery. More tomorrow.