Fifty-one years after Jane Fonda was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, she admitted to Chris Wallace that posing for that picture was “a terrible mistake” but her anti-Vietnam War fight was not.
When the 85-year-old two-time Oscar winner appeared on CNN’s “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?” this week to promote her new film “80 for Brady,” Wallace brought up her decades of political activism and arguably the most controversial moment of Fonda’s public life – that infamous photo that resulted in the lasting nickname Hanoi Jane and the de facto blacklisting in Hollywood until she made her comeback with “Fun With Dick and Jane” five years later.
When asked by Wallace how she feels about that photo in retrospect, Fonda called it a “terrible mistake.”
“I never wanted to go to any military installations. It was the last day of my two-week time there. And I was like a limp noodle, what I had experienced and what I had seen,” Fonda said. “And you know, maybe I was set up but I was an adult…I’m gonna take responsibility for it.”
Fonda’s visit to Hanoi came amidst accusations by the North Vietnamese that U.S. troops were deliberately targeting dikes along the Red River delta to flood rice paddies and cripple the area’s food supply, something that the Nixon Administration denied. Fonda noted that bombings near the dikes stopped four months after her visit, but she still regretted traveling to any military area.
“Hundreds of Americans had gone to North Vietnam, journalists diplomats, our Secretary of State Ramsey Clark, Vietnam veterans, but I said, ‘But a movie star hasn’t gone and maybe if I go it will draw more attention.’ And that’s what it did,” Fonda continued. “And four months later, the bombing stopped of the dikes. So I feel that, well, what I did was good, except that I shouldn’t have set gone out to a military place.”
Fonda has previously apologized for the artillery picture in a blog post on her website in 2011, but she told Wallace that despite her regrets, she refused to bend to the “Hanoi Jane” backlash that came with the photo. While agreeing that the photo was in bad taste, she believed that much of the public pressure was an effort to get her to back down her outspoken antiwar activism.
“I refused to have them scare me away from being actively against the Vietnam War,” she said. “I think they thought, ‘Oh, she’s this white privilege rich, famous daughter…we can scare her,’ and boy did they try.”
“Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?” airs Sundays on CNN and streams on HBO Max.