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Governor’s new communications director mistakenly forwards anti-Obama chain email

October 17th, 2011 · 29 Comments · Politics

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.

From FactCheck.org:

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.]

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29 Comments so far ↓

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  • Pat

    I remember viewing the video. They may have been naive, but sincere, and the message holds true today. The US military has no business being used for corporation profit while occupying other countries without cause…resulting in needless death and destruction.

  • woody

    For some reason everyone ignores the fact that Boersema was/is on the board of Unity House and has been since it was 41 to 13 million dollar (books hard to figure) non-profit with helpful programs for union members , to very recently if not still as it goes into bankruptcy.

  • Steve Lane

    You would hope that the Govenor’s communications director would at least read his own mail before sending it to someone else. I’d fire him.

  • ohiaforest3400

    “New Day in Hawaii”? How ’bout “Stupid Day in Hawaii”? Incredible that a PR “expert” would not realize how this would look.

  • Palolo lolo

    I’d fire him for communicating with Lingle’s staff alone,let alone other layers of stupid. Plus the fact it’s been around for so many years means he’s probably seen it before and forwarded it before.

    • Marie

      Right on! This is not the kind of ‘mistake’ that a Communications Director is suppose to make. This is treason for any average person on the Administration’s Staff but the Director of Communications. Let’s get real…..Too sad for words.

  • Play Nice

    I for one give him at least a nod in the right direction for admitting he sent it right away and recognizing he shouldn’t have sent it. He could have done a Weiner…..

    Further, I think he should be given some slack on the sudden transition to the government hot seat where everything you do and everything you say will be scrutinized. His boss has made some gaffes as well early in the game. We shouldn’t make it out to be more than it is….a mistake.

    • Nancy

      People who forward these mass emails are beyond stupid, and their actions are extremely annoying to those with critical thinking skills. This “communications expert” should be fired.

  • Andy Parx

    “FTA” was an offical acronym for the Army’s “Fun, Travel Adventure” slogan which appeared on recruiting posters in the 60′s and which anti-military protestors changed to F___ The Army.

  • Etoa Nrish

    This is one of my pet peeves, i.e. people forwarding these types of emails far and wide without even the simplest fact or sanity check. This email has been around for a decade because otherwise intelligent people uncritically forward it, so around and around it goes. I have recently thoroughly reamed out a couple of friends (maybe now former friends) for forwarding similar garbage. You would hope that sooner or later folks would learn.

  • curious george

    doesn’t this only matter if he used his new .gov state email address? the post is inconclusive on this point.

    if it was a personal email, do we really care? are we supposed to thought police everyone, regardless of how silly we think some things might be?

    If this was his work email, well, it would seem like they have a problem then, as he should not be getting anything “unofficial” at said address. and if he’s using it that way, he’d better stop. and that is a reflection of the NA admin, their adherence to general policies, and self policing.

    so which is it?

    • Etoa Nrish

      Yes we do care. Even if it is his personal email account and there is no misuse of government assets, it shows poor judgement and lack of attention. Forwarding something to your friends which you have not read is spam, pure and simple. Do we want someone like that in a responsible governmental position?

  • Tim

    If we are talking about Governor Neil Abercrombie’s newly appointed communications director, well, duh, yes, we care, even if he uses his mother’s email address and admits it. again. duh.
    if a high-ranking government figure was charged with assault, but it happened at home, should voters not care? right.
    give us a break, george. sheesh.

  • Richard Gozinya

    I heard he also forwarded three old jokes, a cute cat picture and a numbers of offers for male enhancement, Canadian drugs and a young Russian lady who promises to love you long time.

    OK, I made that up.

    But, really, forwarding a chain letter without reading it? Get a rope.

  • Atomic Monkey

    Country Joe and the Fish and Jane Fonda at the Civic…how’d I miss that one? I bet Neil was there.

  • Status Quo

    I guess you find out who your friends are. Friends would just delete and not share a mistake like this out of the email group..

  • Lopaka43

    I saw that tour by Jane Fonda in Mountain Home, Idaho which is near a military base. It was pretty radical and eye opening for a naive Idaho teenager.

    I don’t understand what somebody who buys into this Swift Boat mentality is doing in a liberal Democrat’s administration, and especially as the person who is helping get the Governor’s message out.

    Seems like he is tone deaf if he does not understand how this stuff is like a red flag to Neil’s base.

  • Kolea

    Let’s see if I understand Boersma’s excuse: “I saw it was a rightwing screed about traitors who opposed the war against Vietnam, so I passed it on to other rightwing-military types who are still bitter about losing that war. ” Is that about right, or am I misreading his “logic”?

    The guy donated $500 bucks to Charles Djou’s campaign. He seems like a reactionary shite.

    Not to get too “Atomic Monkey” here, but what’s Neil been smoking that he continues to surround himself with rightwingers? I get the “Nixon to China” gimmick, but it only works if it is the exception to the rule and not the rule. And, it is supposed to produce good unexpected breakthroughs.

    And finally, this guy is supposed to help Neil avoid clumsy mis-communications which might lead to PR disasters? “Physician, Heal Thyself.”

    Bring back “The Kids,” before it’s too late!

    • Malina808

      Only rightwingers would forward these ridiculous, unsourced and false emails. Beyond dumb…Boersema shows us he’s the one not qualified for the job. Lame excuse…I’m waiting for his resignation, Neil. He needs to spend more time with his family. I prefer the smart kids on the block who are real Democrats!

    • toolate

      Precisely: who cares what the content of the email was: look who is in this guys circle of email buddies!
      YIKES

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