Jane Fonda has backed out of a pledge to speak at the American Bar Association convention in Atlanta after protests from angry veterans - but "Hanoi Jane" says she had a scheduling conflict. "We did have a few people who criticized her, but that is not uncommon," said ABA spokeswoman Nancy Slonim. "She canceled because she had a conflict in her schedule."
Fonda, who is married to Time Warner vice-chairman Ted Turner, was listed as the keynote speaker for the Silver Gavel Award ceremony at the ABA's convention Aug. 10. The awards are given every year to members of the media and entertainment industry for work that contributes to public understanding of the legal system, Slonim said. But Fonda drew fire from veterans angry over her opposition to the Vietnam War, including her 1972 trip to North Vietnam to protest U.S. bombing.
For the ABA to pull that off was the ultimate insult, it was the ultimate act of disrespect," said Charles White, an Amarillo, Texas, lawyer and Vietnam veteran who organized a write-in campaign to have Fonda disinvited. "We have members of the ABA who were prisoners of war when she was doing her thing in Hanoi," White said.
He also said he didn't believe the explanation given by Fonda and the ABA for the change in plans. "It's always a scheduling conflict if veterans get involved. That's a lie. The ABA was embarrassed, and I'm glad they resolved it like they did."
Ronald Bliss, a Houston intellectual-property lawyer and former Air Force pilot, was shot down over Vietnam and spent more than six years as a POW before returning home in 1973. "Because of her activities in Hanoi and North Vietnam and the aid and comfort that she gave to the enemy while our boys were dying in the field, I didn't think she's the kind of influence we would like to have addressing our bar association," Bliss said.
Fonda's spokesman did not return calls from The Post. Slonim said she didn't know what event Fonda found so pressing that she would drop her ABA commitment. Fonda is being replaced as Silver Gavel speaker by CNN news anchor Judy Woodruff. ABA president Philip Anderson issued a statement before Fonda bowed out, saying she was invited "because of her contributions to the arts and her important work with young people." Slonim said past speakers at the ABA convention have drawn controversy as well, including Whitewater and Sexgate prober Kenneth Starr, Clarence Thomas accuser Anita Hill, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig and Watergate figure Charles Colson.