Jane Fonda: Wish I Hadn't

Actress Talks To <b>Lesley Stahl</b> About Her Ex's, & The Vietnam Photo

Her marriage with Vadim ended, and she threw herself into political activism.

In her book, she says that she winces when she sees video of herself back then. She wrote: "Watching myself, I want to shout, 'Will someone please tell her to shut up!'"

"Yes. I just couldn't stop," says Fonda, laughing. "I just kept going. I was probably shrill."

That's when she met Tom Hayden, a star of the anti-Vietnam war movement, and married him. And when she did, she lurched into his very different lifestyle. She moved into a small house, which her father called "the shack," and she didn't have a washing machine.

"Yeah, it was a period of time when you showed your political purity by living, you know, in a way that made my teeth grate, to tell you the truth. It was hard. It was hard," says Fonda. "I mean, if I put a picture up on the wall of my bedroom, the nail would come through the other side."

"You were making good money and you're living like that," says Stahl.

"Well, we were giving the money away. We had to support an anti-war movement," says Fonda. "Why spend it on yourself when people are dying, and there's a war going on? It was a crisis."

Some of the money went to their travels across the country, protesting the war and meeting with Vietnam veterans, and to pay for Fonda's 1972 trip to Hanoi, the enemy capital. She earned the epithet "Hanoi Jane" and the eternal hatred of many veterans when she visited an anti-aircraft gun site used to shoot down American pilots.

It's something that Fonda now says she regrets. "I will go to my grave regretting that. The image of Jane Fonda, Barbarella, Henry Fonda's daughter, just a woman sitting on a enemy aircraft gun, was a betrayal," says Fonda.

"It was like I was thumbing my nose at the military. And at the country that gave me privilege. It was the largest lapse of judgment that I can even imagine. I don't thumb my nose at this country. I care deeply about American soldiers."

But many of those soldiers say if there's one thing they will never forgive her for, it's that she met with a group of seven POWs when she was in North Vietnam, giving the appearance of a staged event at their expense.

"Was that a lapse of judgment?" asks Stahl.

"No. There are hundreds of American delegations that had met with POWs. It was not uncommon at all," says Fonda.

"Does that make it right?" asks Stahl.

"It doesn't make it wrong," says Fonda.

"But the Vietnamese used it as propaganda, to say, 'Look how humane we are,'" says Stahl.

"Well, both sides were using propaganda, were using the POWs for propaganda," says Fonda. "I don't think there was anything wrong with it. It's not something that I will apologize for."

Nor does she apologize for making broadcasts on Radio Hanoi. "Our government was lying to us, and men were dying because of it," she says. "And I felt that I had to do anything that I could to expose the lies, and help end the war. That was my goal."

She asked the Vietnamese if she could make the broadcasts, tapes which 60 Minutes found at the National Archives in Washington.

Fonda went on Radio Hanoi at least 10 times, speaking directly to U.S. pilots, after she had toured the bombed-out countryside and visited hospitals full of injured civilians.

Was she trying to get soldiers to stop the bombing, and disobey their orders? "No. I know that you cannot ask a soldier to disobey orders," says Fonda. "You're not the one that pays the consequences."

She once said: "I beg you to consider what you are doing. The hospitals are filled with babies, and women and old people. Can you justify what you are doing?"

"Doesn't that sound like you're asking them to stop what they're doing?" asks Stahl.

"I'm asking them to consider it. I'm asking them to think about it," says Fonda.

"But the soldiers who call you 'Hanoi Jane' and are still furious at you, say it's one thing to protest here in the country, and another thing to go over there, where our soldiers were, you know, in harm's way, and go into the enemy camp," says Stahl. "I mean, it wasn't like you were saying, 'Richard Nixon, stop this.' You were saying [it] to the pilots."

"Listen, we'd been saying to Richard Nixon, 'Stop this' for eight years. Millions of people had protested. You know, students had been shot at Kent State and still it went on," says Fonda. "It needed what looks now to be unbelievably controversial things. That's what I felt was needed."

"When you hear of this intense fury at you … 30 year later, does it hurt you?" asks Stahl.

"It makes me sad. It makes me sad, because I think that it's ill-placed anger," says Fonda. "I understand that I'm a lightning rod, and I know why the anger is there."

"What if a young, famous actress went to Iraq, hooked up with the insurgents today, and went on their radio and spoke to our soldiers over there?" asks Stahl.

"I wouldn't like it. I don't think it's the same situation at all," says Fonda. "When I went there, we had been involved in the war. We had been fighting in Vietnam for eight years. The majority of Americans opposed the war, the majority of Congress opposed the war. It was a desperate time."