As the Vietnam War was winding down she became better known for the second photo, taken in 1972, of her sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun.
Fonda then became known to many as "Hanoi Jane," a result of her joining an anti-war delegation for a trip to North Vietnam. She appeared to many Americans as giving, at the very least, moral support to those who were holding American prisoners of war and confronting American solders on the battlefield. While few today can remember the names of others in those anti-war delegations that visited Hanoi, they remember Jane. To say she has been vilified by many to this day is an understatement.
Now a 68 year-old grandmother who has remained in the public eye as an actress, workout video star, political activist, famous wife (Roger Vadim/Tom Hayden/Ted Turner) and "born-again" Christian, she has written a memoir and recently appeared on 60 Minutes. During her interview with Leslie Stahl she expressed regret at posing for that second photo (and indirectly the first). Her quote about the second photo taken from the CBS News website...
"I will go to my grave regretting that. The image of Jane Fonda, Barbarella, Henry Fonda's daughter, just a woman sitting on a enemy aircraft gun, was a betrayal," says Fonda. "It was like I was thumbing my nose at the military. And at the country that gave me privilege. It was the largest lapse of judgment that I can even imagine. I don't thumb my nose at this country. I care deeply about American soldiers."Notice that she used the term "lapse of judgment." She did not say it was a mistake. They are not the same thing. I think she knows the difference, unlike so many of our public figures.
A mistake is locking you keys in your car. A mistake is mispelling a word. A mistake is dialing the wrong number. A mistake is missing your exit on the interstate.
A lapse of judgment is stealing a car, writing a statement you know is false, calling in a bomb threat to a public building, or being drunk behind the wheel.
I trust you too can tell the difference.
What Jane Fonda did was a lapse of judgment; she called it correctly. It was a willful act that she must live with for the rest of her life. I have some of those lapses of judgment in my past too; if you don't have a few also by now, you probably will.
So listen along with me as those who violate all manner of laws and public trust stand before the microphone and try to minimize their actions by calling them mistakes. Mistakes are easy to understand and to forgive, deliberate willful acts that harm others require much more of us.
P.S. While allowing herself to be used by the North Vietnamese for their propaganda purposes and needlessly offending millions of Americans was a lapse of judgment, Jane Fonda's assessment of the war, then and now, is I think, the same as my own. The war was not a mistake; it was a huge lapse of judgment on the part of our government and indirectly by the American people. However, there were those on both the "America, Love-It-or-Leave It" and "Anti-War" sides who demonstrated poor judgment. We seem to have learned so little from them.