When Jane Fonda was confronted about her activism during the Vietnam War, the veteran actress got defiant as her “Hanoi Jane” nickname was mentioned. Fonda started out “apologetic,” but then, she started lashing out.
Jane Fonda infamously earned herself the nickname “Hanoi Jane” during the Vietnam War after she was pictured straddling an enemy anti-aircraft gun used to shoot down our American pilots. In addition to the photo-op, posing on the enemy’s gun, Fonda also appeared on 10 radio programs to speak out against the U.S. Military during her notorious trip in 1972.
The Coming Home star was asked about this controversy in an interview with Chris Wallace. Although she started out apologetic, she quickly shifted to being defiant. “Your most famous protest was 50 years ago when you went to North Vietnam at the height of the war there,” Wallace reminded Fonda, according to Mediaite.
“And you were photographed sitting on an anti-aircraft gun,” Wallace added. “Here’s the picture that was used to shut down American plants, critics, and there were millions of them, called you a ‘Hanoi Jane’ and said you were a traitor. And, the question I have is, 50 years later, how do you look back on that particular chapter?”
“It was a terrible mistake,” Fonda replied. “I mean, the reality is, there were 24,000 American troops on the ground in South Vietnam. That all the ground troops were going home. The war was being fought by the air during the Nixon administration,” she furthered.
Wallace pressed Fonda to explain what she meant by terrible mistake. “It was a mistake to go, I never wanted to go to any military installations,” Fonda explained. “It was the last day of my two-week time there, and I was I was like a limp noodle, what I had experienced and what I had seen, I just wasn’t able to resist,” she added.
“They said, ‘We’re gonna take you out here today,'” Fonda continued. “And, I didn’t even think, and they sang me a song, and it made me laugh. I sang a song. That’s what made me laugh. And, it was a terrible mistake because of the image that it showed, which was not at all what the reality was. And, you know, maybe I was set up, but I was an adult…I’m gonna take responsibility for it.”
Fonda started out apologetic, but she got defiant when Wallace asked how she felt about her “Hanoi Jane” nickname. “Well, I didn’t like it. I mean, you know, of all manner of slings and arrows were thrown my way,” she said. “But, when you know why you did something, and you’re willing to admit the mistakes that you made, but stand up for the things that you did that mattered? You’re gonna come through it, okay,” she added.
“And, I refused to have them scare me away from being actively against the Vietnam War,” Fonda continued. “And, you know, I think they thought, ‘Oh, she’s this white privilege rich, famous daughter of all of that stuff. You know, we can scare her,’ and boy did they try? And, the more they tried, the more I…” she furthered before Wallace cut her off and asked, “The more you what?” At that point, Fonda replied, “I know what I’m doing. I dug in my heels. Screw you! I’m not you know…well, they all went to jail.” Wallace then asked, “Who, the people in the Nixon administration?” And, Fonda responded, “Yeah.”
At the time, Jane Fonda’s public criticisms of U.S. leadership caused massive outrage among American officials and war veterans. According to the Washington Post, some lawmakers saw her protests as treasonous, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars called for Fonda to be tried as a traitor. At one point, the Maryland state legislature considered banning her and her films from the state.
Half-century later, some veterans still aren’t pleased with Fonda’s actions in 1972. Time and again, her critics have made it clear that they don’t appreciate her or her opinions. In 2015, about 50 veterans protested her appearance at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, Maryland, holding signs that said, “Forgive? Maybe. Forget? Never.” It seems that has held true.