It seems lately that only international reporters have the courage to challenge their prominent left-wing guests’ talking points. Case in point, BBC HARDTalk host Stephen Sackur’s interview October 16 with liberal activist and actress Jane Fonda. Sackur put Fonda on the spot multiple times, asking her to respond to critics who called her a traitor, and defend Hollywood’s virulent anti-Trump activism that has alienated so many Americans.
The liberal actress attempted a balancing act, defending her activism in the past and currently while also blasting Democrats, the Clintons and the Obamas for “failing” Trump voters.
Sackur began the interview asking Fonda about the recent sexual assault allegations of Harvey Weinstein, before shifting to Fonda’s political activism.
“I now want to switch just briefly to Vietnam, because it was such a turning point for you,” he began. “You became, for a while, a sort of bete noire for a lot of people in the United States who accused you of treachery because of the visit to Hanoi, the infamous photograph of you with the anti-aircraft weapon. I wonder, if still inside you, there’s a sense of regret about that?” he asked.
Fonda responded that she didn’t regret the trip to Vietnam, alleging that she was only there to call attention to U.S. bombing that would kill "millions" of civilians. “So I’m proud that I went, it changed my life all for the good,” she responded. But, she admitted, she did regret the infamous photo of her sitting upon an enemy aircraft gun. She described the incident as a mistake, and not a deliberate display against the United States.
“...[A]s I walked away, I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s going to look like I am against my own country's soldiers and siding with the enemy,’ which is the last thing in the world that is true. I had spent years working with the veterans and the soldiers and then I made coming home in order to try to show what these men were dealing with when they came home, but the image was there,” she asserted.
“Do you think, to a certain extent, changed the perception of you forever?” Shackur asked.
Fonda dismissed the criticism: “Nothing but rocks last forever,” she said, claiming that veterans were now forgiving her for the photo, which she saw as a gaffe:
"I get letters even to do this day, I get letters, and on my blog as I’m active on social media from veterans who say, I used to hate you but I’ve realized now, bla bla bla, and I forgive you. It makes me so happy, not just for me, but what I realize is that they understand now,” she stated.
“You use the word ‘hate’ and there was hate for a while, there was some extraordinary things said,” the host began, before Fonda interrupted.
“We don’t need to go there,” she brushed off the negative talk, acknowledging that not all the letters she gets from veterans is positive.
“I get letters all the time from people saying, ‘I want to urinate on your grave,’ I know about that kind of thing,” she said. “Horrible stuff,” Shakur agreed.
He shifted the conversation to current politics, asking if celebrities were really making their voices heard by the public, when President Trump used these instances to call them out for their elitism:
What I want to think about, what’s happening in America today, and ask you this: Do you think what is the best way, do you think for artists, for particularly famous artists, and let’s face it, actors are you know, at the top of the tree, very famous people. What’s the best way to leverage that public platform to be a successful, effective campaigner, because you know, we’ve seen in the recent past a lot of actors declaring their antipathy to Donald Trump but Trump seems to thrive on that and he talks about the Hollywood elites and these coastal people who don’t understand the real America, so I wonder what you think the best way of campaigning, of being politically active, is, today?
Fonda responded that canvassing door-to-door in districts that favor Trump, was how celebrities could bridge the gap with Trump supporters:
“In organizations, not as individuals, being trained, and knocking on doors and talking to people who aren’t like you, people who voted for Trump, and asking them why and asking them what matters to you, what would you like to see change,” she responded.
But Sackur wanted Fonda to explain why celebrities felt the need to use award ceremonies as political platforms:
“If I may, do you think the grandstanding and the big declarations of the award ceremonies, I guess I’m thinking of Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes, do you think that way of delivering an anti-Trump message is effective or not?” he put Fonda on the spot again.
Instead of putting the blame on Hollywood, Fonda instead admitted that the Democrats were the ones Americans were angry at:
I don’t know. All I know is, and I say this as a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, that the Democratic party has failed us, the Clintons failed us, and in a way the Obama Administration--they’ve all neglected the very people who voted for Donald Trump, who used to be the base of the Democrat party. These people are in such pain, and they are so angry.
Fonda quickly dismissed “some” of Trump’s base as white supremacists who are filled with hate. “You don’t even talk to them,” she noted.
“But there’s a lot of other people, for example, who voted for Obama twice, then voted for Trump. These are people whose identity has been taken away. Their factories, that used to pay them a good union wage that they could support their family on. They’re gone. Who are they? They’re now working in restaurants, they can’t make ends meet, etcetera and so forth. They need to feel that people are hearing them,” she said.
Sackur shifted gears, asking Fonda if she was proud of her country, today.
"Let me ask you a simple question: Are you proud of America today?" he asked. Fonda responded without hesitation:“No!”
“But,” she added, “I’m proud of the resistance. I'm proud of the people who are turning out in unprecedented numbers and continue over and over and over again to protest what Trump is doing. I’m very proud of that core."
Jumping off of that, Sackur then asked about the “huge controversy” surround the NFL players who are “so angry about race politics in the United States” that they “take a knee” when the anthem plays.
"If you, Jane Fonda, were in a situation like that today..?" he posed.
"I would take a knee,” Fonda said without hesitation. “I would take two knees. I’d get on all fours if necessary to get attention. And Trump is manipulating it to make it to have something to do with the military,” she said. “It has nothing to do with patriotism, it has nothing to do with the military, it has to do with racism that is so alive and well in the United States,” she scolded.
Somehow, Fonda talking about what patriotism means rings a little hollow, coming from her. And Sackur even noted this, pushing back on her answer, in a way it seems only BBC reporters have the guts to do, as of late:
“But so many of those Americans you say you want to reach out to, listening to your answer just now, would say, ‘Huh. Jane Fonda, she is still betraying our nation, disrespecting our flag and our military. She hasn’t changed. She’s still that Hanoi Jane,” he stated.
“Well there are some people who feel that way,” Fonda responded.
But the only way I know to do it, is to knock on doors and some people may not want to talk to me but they are kind of curious because what’s a movie star doing here, and you go in and they talk about that, and so, one thing we know: You don’t talk against Trump, you don’t talk against Fox News, you tell them something that they didn’t know, like, and I just flipped a woman in San Diego, which means she was going to vote for Trump again, and she changed her mind because she takes care of--she’s a single mother with four children and a sick mother and she’s for Trump, but when she found out what would happen to her family if the Trump’s health care went through, she was like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know.’
While Fonda deflected from the effectiveness of her as a messenger to the other side, she continues to defend her anti-war activism that earned her that infamous nickname. In 2015 on CBS This Morning, Fonda congratulated her younger self, saying that trip to Hanoi gave her strength and meaning to her life.
You can watch the whole interview below, or skip to 14:44 to see the Q&A mentioned above: