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Jerry Brown and Jane Fonda

When Janie Met Jerry

Recalling the Jane Fonda-Jerry Brown axis

By Lloyd Billingsley, July 21, 2019 7:47 am

As the California Globe noted, movie star Jane Fonda, 81, has given nearly $300,000 to Democrat federal candidates over the last 20 years. The recipients include Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, and now $1,000 for presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar.

The allegedly “moderate” Minnesotan is an unlikely choice for the “progressive icon” Fonda, who never ran for office but was “married to anti-war activist and Chicago Seven defendant Tom Hayden when he challenged incumbent U.S. Senator John Tunney in the Democratic primary.” Hayden lost by 564,242votes, but this was not Jane Fonda’s only brush with California and national politics.

As the Globe article noted, during the reelection of Orange County’s Richard Nixon, Fonda was “photographed on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun.” One of the pilots the Communist regime shot down was Lee Ellis, author of Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton, subject of a 2014 interview with Brian Lamb on C-SPAN. As Ellis notes, the North Vietnamese tortured more than 95 percent of American POWs, including eight tortured to death. Ellis describes the “Pretzel,” one of the regime’s favorite tortures:

“After the prisoner’s legs were tied together, his arms were laced tightly behind his back until the elbows touched and the shoulders were virtually pulled out of joint. Then the torturer would push the bound arms up and over the head, while applying pressure with a knee to the victim’s back. During the torture, the circulation is cut off and the limbs to go sleep but the joint pain continues to increase as the ligaments and muscles tear. When the ropes are finally removed, circulation surges back into the ‘dead’ limbs, causing excruciating pain.” But the torture wasn’t all physical.

The captors piped in propaganda and, Ellis explains, “the afternoon broadcasts were especially disheartening because they featured Americans spouting words that could have been written for them in Moscow and Hanoi.” American Tom Hayden “was a regular speaker,” later joined by his wife “film star Jane Fonda.”

As the Globe recalled, Fonda also partied it up with a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft squad. That had veterans comparing her to “Axis Sally,” Mildred Gillars, who served jail time for broadcasting Nazi propaganda. For her part, “Hanoi Jane” suffered not at all, and became the darling of California Governor Jerry Brown.

Jerry Brown never served in the military and in 1979 Brown appointed Jane Fonda to the California Arts Council. Though rejected by the Senate, this was a poke in the eye to Vietnam veterans, and Brown made it worse when he filled a vacancy on the Orange County Board of Supervisors with Edison Miller, a POW investigated for collaborating with the North Vietnamese. Fonda met Miller when she was doing radio broadcasts from Hanoi, and according to some accounts the actress recommended him for the job.

“Since the appointment,” the Washington Post reported, “other former POWs have visited the state capitol to denounce Miller and Brown. The entire Orange County legislative delegation held a press conference to denounce Brown’s action.” Assemblyman Louis J. Pagan, Bay Area Democrat, said the appointment demonstrated that Brown was unfit to be commander-in-chief of the nation’s armed forces. To the delight of veterans, Brown’s three presidential bids all failed.

As a partisan of Communist North Vietnam like husband Tom Hayden, Fonda was not really an “anti-war activist.” Her movie star father Henry Fonda facilitated her entry to Hollywood, where it’s all relative, but there’s no denying her dramatic talent.

As the Globe noted, Jane Fonda has two Academy Awards, two BAFTAs, and four Golden Globes. Fonda also has plenty of money to give to Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, and presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar. The Minnesota Democrat was 11 years old when Jane Fonda starred as a high-end hooker in Klute, by some accounts her most convincing performance.

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