Vietnam veterans responded Friday with words of doubt, hope, anger and even conditional acceptance to actress Jane Fonda's belated apology for taking an anti-war trip to North Vietnam that earned her the nickname "Hanoi Jane."
"If Miss Fonda is sincere, I accept her apology. But only Miss Fonda knows if she is sincere," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who as a Navy pilot was shot down in Vietnam in 1967 and held as a prisoner for five years.McCain, one of more than 3 million Americans who served in the nation's longest war, said, "I still believe Miss Fonda's behavior in Hanoi in 1972 was reprehensible, and I believe she should have apologized long ago."
Fonda, 50, in an interview to be broadcast Friday on ABC's "20-20," expressed regret for the trip to Hanoi where she was photographed smiling seated behind an anti-aircraft gun and where she made radio appeals for U.S. pilots to stop the bombing and return home.
"We are hoping this is going to be an occasion for healing for vets as well as the nation," said Michael Leaveck, a spokesman for the 38,000-member Vietnam Veterans of America. "We have always advocated that vets let go of hatred, whether it be for Jane Fonda, Henry Kissinger or Richard Nixon."
Fonda, whose efforts to film a movie in New England this summer are being opposed by Veterans Coalition Against Hanoi Jane, told ABC's Barbara Walters:
"I would like to say something, not just to Vietnam veterans in New England, but to men who were in Vietnam, who I hurt, or whose pain I caused to deepen because of things that I said or did."
"I feel that I owe them an apology. My intentions were never to hurt them or make their situation worse . . . .
While admitting mistakes in conduct, she said she has not changed her opinion that the war was wrong and that her trip, overall, helped bring it to a close.
"I feel those of us who opposed the war, including those who went to Vietnam and brought back documented information about what was going on that wasn't getting out, that we helped end the war . . . and I'm very proud of most of what I did."
"Hogwash," replied Lawrence Hollinter, 36, of Sarasota, Fla. Standing in the nation's capital at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, inscribed with the names of more than 58,000 Americans lost in Southeast Asia, he said:
"The only reason she came forth after all these years is because she wants to make that movie. I want the public to realize that her vocal opposition combined with her notoriety harmed all of us."