Governor Neil Abercrombie’s newly appointed communications director said he didn’t read a chain email falsely attacking President Obama for planning to honor a controversial Vietnam War-era critic of U.S. policy before forwarding the email to a group of friends. Intended recipients included a conservative talk show host and the campaign manager of Linda Lingle’s Senate bid.
Contacted this morning at the Governor’s Office, Jim Boersema said he received the email “from three different people” and immediately forwarded it to several others who share his military background and interest in Vietnam.
“I didn’t even read it,” Boersema said. “I was in the Army for 37 years. I saw it was about Vietnam, and I just forwarded it to some friends.”
Boersema acknowledges it was a mistake.
“I shouldn’t have sent it,” he said.
The email, an updated version of a conservative message that has been circulating on the internet for more than a decade, said Obama is planning to honor the controversial actress Jane Fonda as a “Woman of the Century.”
Fonda became a symbol of anti-war activism in the early 1970s, a reputation which was cemented by her highly-publicized visit to Hanoi, capital of North Vietnam, in 1972, while U.S. involvement in the war continued. The email savagely attacks her as a traitor and urges those receiving the email to forward it to others “so that everyone will know a traitor is about to be honored” by the president.
But it isn’t true, according to several different fact-checking sites that examined the email claims. It turns out the “honor” it refers to was Fonda’s inclusion in an ABC News profile of 100 “great women” of the 20th century broadcast in 1999, almost a decade before Obama’s election.
See FactCheck.org, About.com’s “Urban Legends: ‘Hanoi Jane’ Email Blends Fact and Fiction,” and “Hanoi’d with Jane” at Snopes.com.
Among those meant to receive Boersema’s email, sent from his private email address, were MidWeek columnists Rick Hamada and Bob Jones, and former State Adjutant General Bob Lee, recently named manager of Republican Linda Lingle’s Senate campaign. Hamada is also a popular conservative talk show host. Lee may not have received the email due to a mistyped letter in his email address.
It is simply false that the president is planning to honor Jane Fonda as one of the “100 women of the century,” as this chain e-mail claims.
Fonda was one of many women featured in a Barbara Walters special for ABC News called “A Celebration: 100 Years of Great Women,” which looked at the “most inspiring, intriguing and entertaining” women of the 20th century. It was actually based on a list of the “100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century” selected by a panel for Ladies’ Home Journal.
The program hosted by Walters aired on April 30, 1999, nearly 10 years prior to Obama becoming president. Versions of this e-mail — without references to Obama, of course — began circulating soon after Walters’ special aired.
In addition, several incidents described in the email have been repeatedly denied by those involved, the fact checking sites report.
“How Barack Obama got dragged into this is a mystery,” comments Snopes.com, the website that debunks rumors and urban legends. But this email campaign is reminiscent of the false “swift boat” political smears that targeted Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004.
Boersema’s forwarded email encouraged recipients to keep spreading the story by forwarding the rambling allegations linking President Obama to Fonda’s actions. It adds to the political problems of the president and the Democratic Party, and embarrasses Gov. Abercrombie, who was a personal friend of the president’s parents and an early supporter of his candidacy.
“For the record, I like President Obama,” Boersema said this morning. “I do like him.”
Although Jane Fonda was an easy target for conservatives, she also proved very popular among much of the conscript army of the Vietnam era.
I was at the old Civic Auditorium in Honolulu on November 25, 1971, when a capacity crowd of about 5,000 people, mostly young military personnel, jammed the building to cheer Fonda’s touring FTA show (no, not Federal Transit Adminstration, in this case it stood for “F___ the Army”).
Here’s one description I was able to find of the show.
The show, featuring Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Rita Martinson, Country Joe McDonald, Len Chandler Jr., and more had already played outside of Fort Bragg, Fort Ord, Fort Lewis, and other bases in the U.S. and was headed to Okinawa, South Korea, The Philippines, and Japan.
The poster for the show read:
“The G.I. movement exists on nearly every United States military installation around the world. It is made up of American servicemen and women who have come to realize that if there is to be an end to the U.S. military involvement in South East Asia — and end to the war — it is they who must end it.
“In response to the invitation of servicemen and women within the G.I. movement we have formed the F.T.A. Show in order to support their fight to end discrimination against people because of race, sex, class, religion, and personal or political belief.”
[revised 10:50 a.m.]