It is unconscionable that extremist groups circulate letters which accuse me of horrific things, saying that I am a traitor, that POWs in Hanoi were tied up and in chains and marched passed me while I spat at them and called them baby killers. These letters also say that when the POWs were brought into the room for a meeting I had with them, we shook hands and they passed me tiny slips of paper on which they had written their social security numbers. Supposedly, this was so that I could bring back proof to the U.S. military that they were alive. The story goes on to say that I handed these slips of paper over to the North Vietnamese guards and, as a result, at least one of the men was tortured to death. That these stories could be given credence shows how little people know of the realities in North Vietnam prisons at the time.
Hard to believe it was nearly 12 years ago that I first investigated the infamous "Hanoi Jane" email, a viral message (still circulating as we speak) which indeed makes the claim that Fonda called American POWs "baby killers" and instigated their torture by turning over handwritten notes they'd secretly given her to their Viet Cong captors.
That she did no such thing was easily proven. The email mentions two ex-POWs by name, both of whom I was able to contact personally and ask what really happened. While neither of the men expressed any fondness (to put it mildly) for the activist actress or her politics, both men said the email was bunk and were eager to have their names and reputations disassociated from it.
So that's what I wrote.
I immediately heard from irate readers who felt I'd "defended" Fonda and/or "whitewashed" her behavior in Vietnam. I also heard from a few Fonda apologists who complained that my blunt description of the things she actually did do on that ill-advised Hanoi tour was unfair. You can't please everybody.
My one real regret was being unable to get through to Fonda for a statement. My editor at the time happened to have the number to her office in Atlanta, but when I called I was told by her staff that she was "unavailable for comment." I think she and her handlers were unaware as most public figures were at the time how insidious and persistent Internet rumors can be.
Well, no more. Finally, after 12 tight-lipped years, Fonda sets the record straight in her own words and excoriates right-wing "demonizers" for exploiting "lies and distortions" for political gain.
Love her or hate her, it's a compelling read.
Learn more about it:
• 'Hanoi Jane' Email Rumors Blend Fact & Fiction