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'Hanoi Jane' Rumors Blend Fact and Fiction

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  • robalini@aol.com
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 5, 2000
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      Please send as far and wide as possible.


      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist


      'Hanoi Jane' Rumors Blend
      Fact and Fiction

      Dateline: 11/03/99

      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
      never did.

      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
      and careless."

      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
      and/or deletions.

      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.
      Status: FALSE.

      "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
      brutally beaten.
      Status: FALSE.

      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.
      Status: TRUE.

      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
      Fan Club"
      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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