Jane Fonda is an Oscar-winning actress who has continued working in film and TV into what some would call "old age." However, she is perhaps as notorious as she is famous. In the 1970s, Fonda began getting involved in a host of liberal causes, such as the Black Panthers, the Women's Movement, and the plight of Native Americans. Fonda's activism caught the attention of the FBI – specifically, J. Edgar Hoover. But it was Fonda's involvement with the Vietnam War that cost her her reputation with the American people.
A 1972 visit to Vietnam, in which Fonda posed for an unfortunate photo op with the North Vietnamese, led to her tarnished reputation and the nickname "Hanoi Jane." This nickname was not given lightly – Hanoi was one of the most notorious places where American POWs (like Senator John McCain) were held by the Vietnamese. Fonda's activism took her too far, according to some, and gave the FBI free reign to attack her openly. Fonda vs. FBI was an unfortunate and ongoing skirmish during the war, and it was a battle Fonda just couldn't win.
The FBI Targeted Fonda For A Long Time Before They Were Able To Snap The Infamous Photo
Although it was the photograph that spurred the anger of the American public, the FBI had been on Fonda's tail years before her notorious visit to Vietnam. J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, had a bone to pick with white activists who supported civil rights, a cause Fonda was deeply entrenched in.
Fonda became radically liberal in the 1960s, spending countless dollars in support of the Black Panthers and even falling under suspicion of having an affair with one of the organization's leaders. This cause backfired on her, as did her previous cause of trying to be a sort of white savior for the Native Americans, who didn't take too kindly to her efforts. Fonda had spent years cultivating an image of a radical protestor, something the FBI grew wary of. They even wire-tapped her phones, and it got to the point where Fonda began conversing in code with her fellow progressives.
The FBI Suspected Fonda Of Associating With 'Enemies Of The State'
J. Edgar Hoover did not take too kindly to white supporters of African Americans, specifically the Black Panthers, whom Hoover was "personally intent on destryoing." Hoover's tactics included targeting higher-profile, white supporters of the Panthers and other civil rights causes, specifically supporters (like Fonda) who gave money to those the FBI considered "enemies of the state." Hoover actually targeted a lot of Hollywood stars.
Her involvement with the Panthers, which included a lot of out-of-pocket expenses, put the FBI on Fonda's trail. However, it was her involvement with Vietnam years later that finally gave the FBI the ammunition it needed. Unfortunately for Hoover, he passed away two months before the infamous visit.
J. Edgar Hoover Supposedly Concocted False Stories About Fonda Threatening President Nixon
Hoover was so intent on destroying Fonda, he went as far as to plant made-up stories about her in the media in order to decimate her reputation and give the FBI some sort of reason to give her trouble. Hoover and the FBI concocted a scandalous story that Fonda threatened President Nixon.
However, the FBI and the Nixon Administration could never seem to get any charges against Fonda to stick in the courts.
Fonda Was Probably Targeted Because Of Her (Rumored) Interracial RelationshipPhoto: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons/Fair use
If it wasn't bad enough that Fonda was funding the Black Panthers, a rumored relationship with a member of the organization would be the straw that broke the camel's back for Hoover and the FBI. And an unsubstantiated rumor arose that Fonda was sleeping with someone high up in Black Panther leadership.
An anonymous FBI agent said that many agents took their missions personally because they were "so personally offended" by the idea of interracial relationships.