Veterans protest Fonda's role in the movie 'The Butler'

LEWISTON — Don't judge the sparse turnout at their Monday noon protest or their politeness as a lack of passion and anger over the way Vietnam veterans have been treated.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Vietnam veterans Steve Spooner, left, of Auburn and Dane Tripp of Poland protest Jane Fonda's role in the movie "The Butler" at Flagship Cinemas in Lewiston on Monday. 

Steven Spooner, 64, and Dane Tripp, 68, are truly angry that Jane Fonda has a starring role in the newly released movie "The Butler."

"When we were young fellas, we saw these pictures of 'Hanoi Jane' sitting all smiles on an anti-aircraft weapon in a North Vietnamese helmet," said Spooner, of Auburn. "In our minds and our hearts, then and to this day, those were acts of treason. She was providing aid and comfort to the enemy while our brothers were dying, while we were bleeding for this country."

They are not the only ones angry, although they were the only ones outside Lewiston's Flagship Cinemas holding signs Monday afternoon.

"It doesn't matter how many people show up," Spooner said. "If we can educate one patron going into the theater, then it was worth it."

"The Butler" opened this weekend in movie theaters across the county. It was the top box office draw this weekend, despite occasional protests from Vietnam veterans and their supporters.

"We have nothing against the theater, nothing against the movie itself," Tripp said. "I'm sure it's very historical. There's no malice against the movie, just the person they cast in it."

Their anger stems from Fonda's visit to Vietnam in 1972. Fonda was already an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War when she traveled to North Vietnam and was photographed laughing and singing with North Vietnamese troops.

It amounted to giving aid and comfort to the enemy, Spooner said. That's treason, he said.

"We were under so much scrutiny," Spooner said. "Any little mistake, it was used as proof that we were drug-crazed baby-killers. But she did this and she's famous and the friend of all those politicians."

The actress has since apologized, saying it was one of the biggest mistakes she's made.

But that's not enough, Spooner said.

"She would have to stand trial for treason for me to be satisfied," Spooner said. "She not only would need to stand trial, but our government would need to stand up and say 'We did know she was wrong and we were, too, for not pursuing it.'"

The fact that she plays first lady Nancy Reagan in the movie is just salt in the wound.

"To me, that is a slap in the face to every American citizen there is," Tripp said. "To depict her with that ...? It just seems strange, that's all."

Spooner said he took part in Internet mailing campaigns when he first learned Fonda was up for the role. He began talking to friends and other former vets when it was released, urging them to come out.

Only Tripp joined him, and it was a mannered protest. Both men promised Manager Shane Phalen that they would stay clear of the entrance and would not harass his customers. Phalen thanked them, both for their manners and for their service.

The two men waited until 1 p.m., when the matinee showing of the movie was scheduled to begin, and then went on their way.

"I feel better today because I voiced my opinion, because I stood up and said this was wrong," Spooner said. "I never spoke out against anybody before. All I wanted to do was to be left alone. But now, I'm not afraid to speak."

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I don't get it

In 1972, Jane Fonda was a B movie actress looking to liven up a faltering career by doing something outrageous. She was sort of the Rush Limbaugh of her day. She had no influence whatsoever with either the American or Vietnamese government, had no weapons, had no intelligence and was not authorized to do or say anything official. She was protesting a war that half the country was protesting as a war the government lied us into, lied to us about the casualty rates, lied about the defoliants, lied about our alliances. All these claims have since been proven to be true. She was wrong and has since admitted she was wrong and apologized many times. To place the blame entirely on her for the bitterness that evolved between the people fighting the war and the ones fighting the protest is illogical and unfair. It's like blaming all the evils of slavery on Paula Deen who, after all, is a cook who made an unwise remark 30 years ago. People who harbor hatred in their hearts over something so inconsequential for years and years need counseling to find peace.

Jon Cantin's picture

Still a B movie actress

Maybe she should take a trip to Syria. Make a name for herself there.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Veterans protest Fonda's role in the movie 'The Butler'

Mainers , 13:40 hst ? Monday ( our ƒunda ) •
Why bother ?
/s, Ted Turner ( Not )
hth , Dr. Dosh , HI ( FSO ret.)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Spoken like a true Peace

Spoken like a true Peace Corpsman.

Chuck Masselli's picture


Damn! I wanted to see that movie too! However, as a combat wounded Viet Nam Veteran Marine, I don't watch anything that Fonda appears in! While Fonda was pretesting and cuddling up to Ho Chi MIn, I was identifying the bodies of my fallen Brothers who had been blown to bits! Screw Jane Fonda! Semper Fi!!!!!

AL PELLETIER's picture

I'm with you, Brothers

In recent years we have been receiving the welcome home we never got in the 60's and 70's . Most all of us have now had healing experiences and our efforts, bravery and sacrifices are being recognized, acknowledged and appreciated. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will ever bring me to forget and forgive that treasonous bitch.

RONALD RIML's picture

Time to let it go, Al......

The Vietnamese long fought for their 'Independence' just as we did from Great Britain. They neither wanted the Communists nor us. Ho Chi Minh turned to President Wilson after WW-I for American assistance to gain freedom from French Colonial Rule. Wilson refused - so he turned to French Communists - we had our chance but blew it.

We no more cared for Vietnamese self-determination then the 'Man-in-the Moon' - it was all part of containing Communist Chinese Expansion and protecting South Korea..

So now we lost Vietnam, we're in debt up to out eyeballs to China, and they're kicking the shit out of us in World Trade and business. Vietnam is doing better than it ever has.

So who won and who lost?? Jane Fonda had the common sense to know we weren't going to win that war - I wouldn't condemn her for it. The real traitors are the ones who keep sending us oversea to die and keep racking up our national debt.

Steve Bulger's picture


Well shipmate (and it torques my jaw to use that term with you), I cannot understand how anyone who served during the Vietnam "police action" could ever endorse or forgive the actions of people like Jane Fonda, who protested in North Vietnam, or Bill Clinton, who protested at the U.S. embassy in London. Their actions are treasonous, and your apathy and apologetic stance are unforgivable. Maybe it's time for you to pack up and return to Illinois to sell your load of bovine excrement there. (And I'm ashamed to say that I shared the same uniform as you.)

RONALD RIML's picture

A fellow shipmate shares similar views to mine.

He's another liberal. And as a Seaman Deuce, he had a unique perspective. He was blown over the side one night when walking under a 5" gun mount. The guys in his 'Division' covered for him when he was missing from quarters as they figured he was racked out somewhere. He was treading water off NVN until the fishermen picked him up. Then he eventually wound up in the Hanoi Hilton. He caught a lot of shit, but eventually they just had him sweep the camp out. He memorized the name of every POW in the Camp and brought that intelligence out.

Here's a good story about him. "THE INCREDIBLY STUPID ONE"

He instructed at SERE School at Coronado as a civilian for many years. When there was the controversy regarding 'Waterboarding' - whether or not it constituted 'Torture' - he came out on record and said that it did.

You are afraid of we liberals. Freedom scares you. Including the fact that we are willing to fight and die for it. I too protested the Iraq war. It was needless B.S. based on lies. Your beliefs are based on ignorance and fear.

Steve Bulger's picture


What does this have to do with Hanoi Jane's reprehensible actiions? I have an enormous amount of empathy and admiration for any POW - they deserve all the respect and gratitude our nation and people can offer.

As for you "liberals", I grew up in a Maine that was fiscally and socially conservative. It wasn't until the liberals "from away" began coming in droves and bringing their irresponsible social and financial policies with them that Maine started to become the welfare state that it is now. So while Maine is my place of birth, I will never live there again because of people such as yourself. Thanks for your part in changing Maine from a dream state to a nightmare.

RONALD RIML's picture

Cry me a freakin' River, Baby Boy......

Blame everybody but yourself for leaving Maine. No doubt you're the type that nothing ever is your fault.

RONALD RIML's picture

Steve - Rather than me return to Illinois -

It's time for you to study world history and learn the truth as to why the Vietnam War was not winnable for the U.S.

Also research case law regarding 18 USC § 2381; the number of Americans actually convicted, and the Constitutional considerations thereof.

Then come back and we'll have a discussion.

Steve Bulger's picture

Try again, Ron

I have no need to re-study world history; I know that the Vietnam "police action" (Congress never declared war) was unwinnable. Nevertheless, whether the reasons for our actions were legitimate, America lost soldiers, sailors and airmen to an armed enemy. Returning servicemembers were treated with derision and disdain and had the sense that they were considered criminals for following the orders of their military and civilian superiors. The last thing our deployed troops needed was a recognizable public figure (Fonda) appearing alongside NVM military officers while sitting on an anti-aircraft gun. Her actions may not fit the legal definition of "treason", but in the words of SCOTUS Justice Potter Stewart commenting on another legal precept, "I know it when I see it."

RONALD RIML's picture

One minor difference.

Potter Stuart was well versed in the Law - I highly doubt you are. Have you taken Constitutional Law courses at an accredited university or college? Written briefs?

I returned from four Nam deployments; never met with the "derision and disdain of criminality' as you put it, other than the normal civilian derision and disregard for 'Military' as has been long historical as Kipling immortalized in the poem "Tommy"

I never once witnessed a 'spitting' incident nor heard a first person account of it from anyone I knew in all my time in the military. Not to say that it didn't happen, but the extent to which it occured has been found to be more legendary than fact: Reference: "The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam" by sociologist Jerry Lembcke As a Law Enforcement Officer I have arrested people for spitting at others - and would doubtfully have arrested a military member for physically defending himself against someone who had assaulted him/her by spitting at them.

I also refer you to Jeffrey Record's "The Wrong War - Why We Lost in Vietnam" - by Jeffrey Record This book was Published by the Naval Institute Press, hardly a paragon of the left wing establishment. Here it is reviewed in the New York Times by Joseph L. Galloway, a War Reporter of impeccable credentials. Author of 'We Were Soldiers Once, and Young," as a civilian journalist he was awarded the Bronze Star for carrying wounded soldiers to safety under fire during the battle at Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley.

Heed what he has to say. Read the entire review - here is but an excerpt:

"Throughout the war, Record insists, both gradualists and sharp-blow proponents in the United States believed that North Vietnam's leaders had some rational breaking point, some point where they would tire of drowning in the blood of their sons and daughters. To maintain that belief, the Americans had to ignore the history and culture of the Vietnamese and blithely overlook the French defeat just a few years before. Record goes on to quote Gen. Colin Powell, a two-tour Vietnam veteran: ''Our political leaders led us into a war for the one-size-fits-all rationale of anti-Communism, which was only a partial fit in Vietnam, where the war had its own historical roots in nationalism, anticolonialism and civil strife.''

Throughout, the United States fought a limited war with limited aims -- our leaders declared at the outset that America did not seek the destruction of North Vietnam, only the preservation of South Vietnam -- against an enemy that fought an all-out war with a single-minded goal of victory, no matter how long it took or how many lives it cost to expel the foreigner. In the end, the victor admitted to losses of 1.1 million dead and 300,000 missing, or 5 percent of the population of North Vietnam and the areas of the South that it controlled. To put these numbers in perspective, such a casualty rate applied to the United States would have meant 13 million Americans killed and 3.9 million missing in action. American forces, in fact, lost over 58,000 dead and suffered 300,000 seriously wounded in Indochina. (''Put another way, in terms of military dead,'' Record says, ''the Communist side sacrificed 36 times more of their own soldiers to unify Vietnam than did the Federal Government to defeat the secessionist Confederate states'' in the American Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in our nation's history.)

Record takes a sharp and critical look at the sorry state of civilian-military relations at the top in Washington, especially during the years when Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert S. McNamara rode roughshod over their military advisers. Johnson believed his Joint Chiefs of Staff were warmongers out to destroy his Great Society by their wild-eyed schemes. McNamara walled them off in the Pentagon and kept them and their advice as far from the President as possible. Not until well into 1967 were any of the military chiefs even permitted to attend the Tuesday war council sessions at the White House, where the President and his aides personally selected the targets in North Vietnam that would be bombed that week.

The military was relegated, as a result of its constitutional position, to the role of an accomplice in what the author says was the ''most strategically reckless American enterprise of the 20th century.'' The leaders in the Pentagon and the key commands did not make the decision to intervene in Indochina, and they opposed constraints on the application of military power. ''Yet the record reveals no instance of the Joint Chiefs of Staff counseling the President to cut U.S. losses in Vietnam rather than embrace the substantial risks of full-blown intervention,'' Record says. ''At every juncture on the road to disaster in Vietnam, the Chiefs pushed for earlier use of more force.'' If we were served poorly in all matters pertaining to Southeast Asia by our civilian leaders in the 1960's, those leaders were in turn badly served by the professional military, Record concludes.

In the end it all boils down to one question: Could we have won a military victory in Vietnam? Record's answer is: Yes, but not at any price even remotely acceptable to the American people. One thoughtful former infantry battalion commander told me he had reflected long and hard about what would have resulted from unlimited war, including an invasion of North Vietnam: ''We could have won a military victory without question. But today my sons and yours would still be garrisoning Vietnam and fighting and dying in an unending guerrilla war.'' The war was ours to lose, and we did; it was for the South Vietnamese to win, and they could not."

Jon Cantin's picture

Basics of article

I and others will still not pay money to go to a Jane Fonda movie.
Others can post, write, copy, quote, paste, and show just how smart and superior they are..... same outcome for me.
No to Jane Fonda.

RONALD RIML's picture

So you will watch it for free on TV.

I'm familiar with your type.

Jon Cantin's picture

It's not about cost its about

It's not about cost its about principal. I think I worded my last post incorrectly. I will not argue with you. I also believe your reply was unfair to me. Last word.

RONALD RIML's picture

Not that you didn't get 'personal' in your posting, eh


As we found out in Vietnam. We reap what we sow.


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