Jane Fonda: I Will Go to My Grave With ‘Unforgivable Mistake’

Image: Jane Fonda: I Will Go to My Grave With ‘Unforgivable Mistake’ Jane Fonda is surrounded by soldiers and reporters as she sings an anti-war song near Hanoi during the Vietnam War in July 1972. The actress is seated on an anti-aircraft gun. (AP)

Wednesday, 03 Apr 2013 06:17 PM

By Greg Richter

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“I made one unforgivable mistake when I was in North Vietnam, and I will go to my grave with this,” Jane Fonda says on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

The actress and activist made an infamous trip to North Vietnam in 1972 where she was photographed singing with members of the North Vietnamese military as she sat on an anti-aircraft gun.

She was criticized then — and ever since — and says she understands the anger.

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Fonda says she knew immediately she had made a mistake and has apologized repeatedly, both privately and publicly.

She told OWN program “Oprah’s Master Class” that the event happened on the last day of her visit. She was tired, she said, and didn’t want to attend.

“I don't know if I was set up or not,” she said. “I was an adult. I take responsibility for my actions.”

The soldiers sang a song and Fonda joined in with her “feeble Vietnamese.”

As everyone was laughing and singing, Fonda was led to a gun site, where she sat down.

“And I was laughing and clapping, and there were pictures taken.”

As she walked away, Fonda says she suddenly realized the pictures would be seen in the United States — and they would not look good.

“There were no planes, the gun was not operable. It didn’t matter. This is an image that belied everything that I was,” Fonda said.

The visit earned Fonda the nickname “Hanoi Jane,” particularly among U.S. veterans, who were outraged by photos of the young actress.

In 1988, Fonda met with a group of Vietnam veterans in a church basement in Connecticut while making a film there. She said that while not everyone at the meeting became “fond of Fonda,” there was healing.

“What I learned,” she said, “we have to listen to each other, even when we don’t agree, even when we think we hate each other. We have to listen to each other’s narratives, not interrupt defensively or with hostility, but really try to open our hearts and listen with empathy.”

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