'Hanoi Jane' Rumors Blend Fact and Fiction
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Editor, The Konformist
'Hanoi Jane' Rumors Blend
Fact and Fiction
By David Emery
Email rumors blending fact and fiction about Jane
Fonda's activities as an anti-war protester during
the 1970s have reopened old wounds for Vietnam
veterans and inspired a new round of recriminations
for things the actress did long ago, and things she
The rumors (see next page) center around Fonda's
tour of North Vietnam in 1972, during which she
cozied up to the enemy, posing for photo ops with
communist troops and broadcasting anti-American
propaganda over Radio Hanoi.
During the same trip she participated in a staged
press conference with American POWs, the
purpose of which was to demonstrate that they
were not being mistreated by their captors. Years
later when the released POWs described the
torture and degradation they really did suffer at the
hands of the North Vietnamese, Fonda called them
"hypocrites and liars."
Those facts are not under dispute. Fonda's behavior
at that time, considered treasonous by some,
earned her the nickname "Hanoi Jane" among the
veterans and POWs of the Vietnam War, some of
whom hate her to this day.
Since the '70s Fonda has revamped her image
several times over, rededicating herself to her acting
career, becoming a fitness guru in the early '80s,
and marrying billionaire Ted Turner in 1991. In
1988 she delivered a televised apology to Vietnam
veterans and their families, a gesture that didn't
mollify everyone but established some distance
between the new Fonda and old Fonda, whose
actions, she finally admitted, had been "thoughtless
As the '90s progressed Fonda's past was less
frequently brought up as an issue and seemed to
dwindle in importance – until this year, that is, when
Barbara Walters chose to honor the actress in a TV
special called "A Celebration: 100 Years of Great
Women." The announcement of the program –
which aired in April 1999 and did honor Jane
Fonda – prompted an instant outcry from veterans
and ex-POWs, many of whom vented their
indignation via the Internet. Angry recriminations
were posted in newsgroups, published in
newsletters and on Web pages, and shared by
Apparently bits and pieces of these texts, along with
a few shameless fabrications, were cobbled
together by persons unknown to create the "Hanoi
Jane" diatribe which still circulates today. Parts of it
are true and parts of it are false.
Though we don't know precisely when versions of
the "Hanoi Jane" message first began making the
rounds (presumably among veterans and military
personnel), they found their way into general
circulation in early September. Each of the versions
I've seen exhibits slight variations in format and
wording, and in some cases added comments
Jon E. Dougherty, a columnist for WorldNetDaily,
saw fit to quote a version of the message verbatim
in his September 15 column entitled "Not saluting
Jane Fonda." Interestingly, Dougherty's piece,
complete with his own commentary, was copied
and distributed by readers and quickly established
itself as another popular variant of the
already-circulating text. [Update: Mr. Dougherty
published a correction on Nov. 10.]
Below is a representative example of the basic
message. Bear in mind that only part of what you're
about to read is true (see next page for analysis).
Looks like Hanoi Jane may be
honored as of the "100 Women of
the Century". JANE FONDA
remembered? Unfortunately may
have forgotten and still
countless others have never known
how Ms. Fonda betrayed not only
the idea of our "country" but the
men who served and sacrificed
during Viet Nam.
There's no disputing that Jane Fonda toured North
Vietnam, propagandized on behalf of the
communists, and participated in an orchestrated
"press conference" with American POWs in 1972.
There's no denying that she defamed POWs by
whitewashing the Viet Cong's treatment of them and
later calling them liars when they spoke out.
But how true are the further allegations in the current
email rumors? Let's examine their veracity point by
point, beginning with the most serious:
Claim: Fonda betrayed POWs by turning over
slips of paper they gave her to their captors.
POWs were beaten and died as a result.
"It's a figment of somebody's imagination," says Ret.
Col. Larry Carrigan, who was shot down over
North Vietnam in 1967. He has no idea why the
story was attributed to him. "I never met Jane
Fonda," he told me. It goes without saying he never
handed her a secret message.
He confessed that he did see Fonda once while he
was a POW – on film.
He recalled a night when he and the rest of the 80 or
so men he was interned with were called out into the
prison courtyard, "the first time we'd been outside
under the stars in 5 or 6 years." As they all stood
there wondering what was in store for them, a
projector started whirring in the background. Their
captors proceeded to show them footage of Jane
Fonda's visit to Hanoi.
Claim: A POW spit at Fonda, for which he was
This story is attributed in the
email to former Air Force
pilot Jerry Driscoll, who says
it's false and did not originate
from him. I wasn't able to
speak with Driscoll directly,
but Mike McGrath and Paul
Galanti, fellow officers of the
Nam-POWs organization to
which Driscoll belongs, told
me he unequivocally
disavows the story.
[Update: after this
commentary was written I
received personal confirmation from Jerry Driscoll
that the story is bogus – as he put it, "the product of
a very vivid imagination."]
Mike McGrath, currently serving as the president of
Nam-POWs, has been trying for more than a month
to help Driscoll and Carrigan squelch the false
rumors circulating under their names.
"They would like to get their names removed but the
story seems to have a life of its own," he told me.
"There are a lot of folks out there who would love to
have a story like that to hang their hat and their hate
Claim: POWs were beaten for refusing to
cooperate or meet with Fonda during her visit.
The final anecdote in the "Hanoi Jane" message
recounts the experience of a POW who agreed to
meet with Fonda but announced to his captors that
he planned on telling her how horrid conditions in
North Vietnamese prison camps really were.
"Because of this," the narrative continues, "I spent
three days on a rocky floor on my knees with
outstretched arms with a piece of steel placed on my
hands, and beaten with a bamboo cane every time
my arms dipped."
Those words were written by Michael Benge, a
civilian advisor captured by the Viet Cong in 1968
and held as a POW for 5 years. When I contacted
him, he confirmed that the story was indeed his, and
Benge's original statement, entitled "Shame on Jane,"
was published in April by the Advocacy and
Intelligence Network for POWs and MIAs. The
nameless, faceless author of the "Hanoi Jane"
message evidently picked it up from a Web page or
a newsgroup and combined it with fabricated stories
to create the forwarded text. Some versions now
circulate with Benge's name appended, others quote
his statement anonymously.
"None of us are members of the Jane Fonda
A good cause is never well-served by lies, and that's
how all of the ex-POWs I spoke to or corresponded
with about the falsehoods in this message felt. Paul
Galanti said: "None of us are members of the Jane
Fonda Fan Club, but these fabrications are
something she just did not do."
No one had an answer to the question "Who made
up these stories and why?" but both Carrigan and
McGrath expressed doubt that it was a POW.
"She did enough to place her name in the trash bin of
history," McGrath explained. "None of us need to
make up stories on her."
Jane Fonda could not be reached for comment.
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