FACT: She was featured in an ABC special in 1999 and rumor spread.
Posted: January 16, 2011
By Carole Fader
Many Times-Union readers want to know:
An e-mail titled "Never Forgive a Traitor" says that President Barack
Obama will be honoring Jane Fonda as one of the Women of the Century.
Is this true?
The claim about Obama in this chain e-mail is false.
In actuality, Fonda was one of many women featured in a Barbara
Walters special for ABC News called "A Celebration: 100 Years of
Great Women," according to Factcheck.org, a nonpartisan fact-finding
project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of
Pennsylvania. The special, which aired on April 30, 1999, looked at
the "most inspiring, intriguing and entertaining" women of the 20th
century and was based on a list of the "100 Most Important Women of
the 20th Century" selected by a panel for the Ladies Home Journal
magazine, FactCheck.org reports.
Right after the Walters special aired, versions of the chain e-mail
started appearing. In the most recent versions, the Obama references
have been added. The e-mails also contain inaccuracies about Fonda.
What is true: The actress/fitness guru/activist did travel to Hanoi,
North Vietnam, in 1972 to protest the Vietnam War.
She broadcast on Radio Hanoi, criticizing American military and
political leaders, according to numerous media accounts. She said it
was "laughable" that U.S. soldiers were tortured and called them "war
criminals." Photographers captured her smiling and applauding North
Vietnamese soldiers at an anti-aircraft gun site. She was thereafter
known by war veterans and others as "Hanoi Jane."
Media accounts do report that some American soldiers did suffer as a
result of Fonda's visit. But as FactCheck.org and Snopes.com report,
specific mentions in the e-mail were debunked years ago by the very
people supposedly involved.
It isn't true, FactCheck.org reports, that former Vietnam POW Jerry
Driscoll suffered career-ending double vision from a beating said to
be imposed by his North Vietnamese captors after Fonda visited.
Driscoll has said that he never met Fonda and he has denied for years
that the beating scenario ever happened.
"Totally false. It did not happen," Driscoll told the Star Tribune of
Minneapolis in a May 25, 2005 article.
Driscoll has negative feelings about Fonda, but he wasn't beaten
because of her and can see just fine. He flies corporate jets now,
after retiring as a pilot from the Air Force and American Airlines,
the story said.
Another inaccuracy is that Fonda gave North Vietnamese guards pieces
of paper - some with Social Security numbers - slipped to her from
American POWs and that resulted in the beating of former POW Larry
Carrigan and the beating deaths of three others.
Carrigan has been quoted in media reports: "It's a figment of
Mike McGrath, a former POW and director and historian of the
Nam-POWs, also disclaimed the story, saying "I have spoken to all the
parties named ... They all state that this particular Internet story
is a hoax and they wish to disassociate their names from the false story."
"The whole [e-mail] story about Jane Fonda is just malarkey," said
Edison Miller of California, a former Marine Corps pilot held more
than five years and one of the seven POWs to meet with Fonda,
according to Snopes.com.
The e-mail is accurate about one element, according to Michael Benge,
a former civilian economic development adviser who was captured by
the North Vietnamese in 1968, FactCheck.org reports. Although not
mentioned by name in the e-mail, he told the Star Tribune that he was
the man described as meeting with Fonda to tell her that the
treatment by the North Vietnamese was not "humane and lenient" as she
had said. Subsequently, Benge said, he "spent three days on a rocky
floor on my knees, with my arms outstretched with a large steel
weights placed on my hands, and beaten with a bamboo cane."
After the Barbara Walters special ran, Benge wrote a letter taking
ABC and Walters to task for honoring Fonda.
Fonda has apologized a number of times for the photograph with North
Vietnamese soldiers. In 1988, she met with Vietnam veterans in a
nationally televised apology in which she said she was "thoughtless
and careless," according to Snopes.com, which quotes an Associated
Press article. Snopes.com is a well-respected nonpartisan website
that confirms or debunks rumors and urban legends.
She also apologized for the photograph during a 2005 interview on
CBS' "60 Minutes" (tinyurl.com/e27sq):
"I will go to my grave regretting that. ... It was the largest lapse
of judgment that I can even imagine. I don't thumb my nose at this
country. I care deeply about American soldiers."
The interview states that Fonda did not apologize for speaking out
against the war on Radio Hanoi or for her other anti-war activities,
which the North Vietnamese later used as propaganda.
Almost 40 years after her North Vietnam visit, veterans and other
Americans still harbor contempt for Fonda. Some of them note that her
apologies only came when she was promoting a film or book project.
But the bottom line for this chain e-mail: No matter what you might
think of Fonda, the president has no plans to celebrate her life.