You probably saw Megyn Kelly’s riveting interview – actually, “harsh interrogation” is more like it – with 60’s radical Bill Ayers. The despicable terrorist was nimble and slippery, but Megyn blasted him with dates and facts the way his Weather Underground once set off bombs. Of course, the 69-year-old Ayers was as unapologetic and unrepentant as ever, refusing to even rule out the possibility that someday he’ll again take up arms against the USA.
Hearing Ayers excuse his vile behavior brought to mind Jane Fonda, who just received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. Her Hollywood pals were, pardon the expression, extremely liberal with their praise. Lily Tomlin actually called Fonda “a role model for the American modern woman.” But many Vietnam veterans have a far different assessment. “She should not be given any other award other than a jail cell,” said Peter Forbes of the group Veterans of the Vietnam War.
Jane Fonda’s road to polarizing infamy began exactly 42 years ago. In July 1972, she arrived in Hanoi for a two-week tour that was used as propaganda by the North Vietnamese. She made numerous radio broadcasts, denouncing some Americans as “war criminals.” But of course, no North Vietnamese or Viet Cong were cited as such by her. Faced with an unpopular war, the Nixon administration declined to prosecute Fonda, who went on to achieve great wealth by starring in movies, selling exercise videos, and marrying a billionaire. She remains a liberal icon.
Unlike Bill Ayers, Fonda has at times been somewhat apologetic about her treachery, or at least one aspect of it. She admits that she never should have been photographed gleefully sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, the same type of gun used to shoot down American pilots. Here’s how Fonda now explains the incident: “It happened on my last day in Hanoi. I was exhausted and an emotional wreck after the 2-week visit … I hardly even thought about where I was sitting.”
Nevertheless, her sympathy for the devil endured. One year after the trip to Hanoi, she named her newborn son Troy in honor of a Viet Cong who tried to assassinate U.S. Secretary of defense Robert McNamara. So it’s certainly no surprise that Jane Fonda has been known to her many enemies and detractors as “Hanoi Jane.” That dubious nickname is a reference to “Tokyo Rose,” another wayward woman whose story bears repeating.
Iva Toguri was an American citizen studying medicine in Tokyo when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. She voluntarily stayed in Japan and began broadcasting propaganda on Japanese radio, aiming her vitriol at American troops in the Pacific. A 1944 broadcast went this way: “Hello, boneheads. This is your favorite enemy. Are you enjoying yourselves while your wives and sweethearts are running around with 4F’s in the States?”
After Japan was defeated, Iva Toguri remained every bit as unrepentant as Bill Ayers is today, even signing autographs as “Tokyo Rose.” She was convicted of treason and spent seven years in a federal prison.
So is there a difference between Iva Toguri and Jane Fonda? Certainly, the scale of Toguri’s crimes was greater. Yet many Americans insist that Jane Fonda’s actions were treasonous, and only the politics of the time saved her.
Fonda has always been a naïve, easily led person who seems desperate for approval. If you believe her own words, she has led an unhappy life; even in softball interviews, she is always strident and on edge. An inner turmoil is clearly evident on her surgically smooth face.
However she may rationalize her visit to Hanoi, Fonda’s actions undeniably hurt brave Americans trying to survive in the brutal killing fields of Southeast Asia. She says all she wanted was peace, that’s why she did it. Ironically, Jane herself has known little peace since then. Her life has been marred by conflict, defensiveness, marital disasters, and estrangement from her daughter.
So, when you think about it, Jane Fonda has served a life sentence of sorts. Compared to her, Tokyo Rose might have gotten off easily. And Bill Ayers, a violent criminal who wound up teaching at a public university, got off the easiest of all. As Ayers himself once put it: “Guilty as sin, free as a bird. It’s a great country!” Yes, Bill, it is, but not because of you and your radical friends.