It’s hard to believe, but May 4, 2020, is the 50th anniversary of the tragic shooting at Kent State University, where Ohio National Guard troops fired on a crowd of students during a massive anti-Vietnam War protest, killing four students and injuring nine.
Witnesses, military and law-enforcement experts, historians, and activists are divided on whether the shooting was justified (that’s a discussion for another day), but it appears that Kent State is going all-in on pouring salt in the wounds of America’s Vietnam veterans.
In a move that surprised many in the Northeast Ohio area and beyond, Kent State President Todd Diacon announced that actress, activist, and (former?) communist sympathizer Jane Fonda will be one of the speakers at an anniversary commemoration of the shooting on May 3—and she’ll be paid a whopping $83,000 to ostensibly reminisce about her anti-war activism.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican and veteran, is not having it.
“The 50th anniversary of one of Ohio’s darkest days has the potential to serve as a moment of unity, understanding & healing in a nation that is deeply divided,” LaRose wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. “However, Kent State’s decision to pay Jane Fonda $83,000 to speak at their commemoration event does the very opposite.”
LaRose, who served in the 101st Airborn Division and later as a Green Beret, earning a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq, observed that American service members returning from Vietnam “deserved a much better reception than the one they received. They weren’t the politicians who chose which battle to fight — they were the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines sent into the battle. And we should say one thing to them: Welcome Home.”
But that wasn’t all. While LaRose says he understands that people can disagree on policy issues, especially matters of war, “What’s not ok is providing aid and comfort to the enemy and willfully serving as a propaganda tool for those engaged in hostilities against the United States.”
“And Ms. Fonda did that – the very definition of treason,” he added.
LaRose noted on Twitter that he supports free speech, but the university should not be paying her tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege.
Of course I’m all for free speech. @Janefonda can come to campus and give a speech for free anytime — but we shouldn’t be paying her $83k to travel to Ohio and speak at such a solemn occasion as this. https://t.co/u1kxJCusgh
— Frank LaRose (@FrankLaRose) February 18, 2020
“Not for this solemn anniversary and not for $83k that could be better used,” LaRose wrote in a Facebook comment. “She can come to any college voluntarily (as I do frequently) and speak to a class.”
Kent State spokesman Eric Mansfield defended the decision in a statement saying the commemoration advisory committee “developed three pillars that guided the planning: honoring and remembering those killed and wounded; educating about May 4, 1970, and the dangers of polarizing rhetoric and divisive discourse; and above all, inspiring current and future students to be leaders in peaceful conflict resolution and reconciliation.”
(That “polarizing rhetoric” bit is aimed at Trump supporters and homophobes, no doubt, not aging commies.)
For those who were strung-out on LSD (or not old enough to remember the ’70s), Fonda came under fire for allowing herself to be used as a propaganda tool during a visit to North Vietnam in 1972, mugging for cameras on top of a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, a stunt that earned her the nickname “Hanoi Jane.”
In 2011 Fonda said she regrets the photo shoot. “There is one thing that happened while in North Vietnam that I will regret to my dying day. I allowed myself to be photographed on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun,” she said. But then she went on to qualify the mea culpa: “It happened on my last day in Hanoi. It was not unusual for Americans who visited North Vietnam to be taken to see Vietnamese military installations and when they did, they were always required to wear a helmet like the kind I was told to wear during the numerous air raids I had experienced.”
More recently, she conceded that her actions were “thoughtless.” “I’m proud that I went to Vietnam when I did, but what I say in the film is true: I am just so sorry that I was thoughtless enough to sit down on that gun at that time,” she said last year at a Television Critics Association panel for her HBO documentary.
That doesn’t erase what she did, however, or the betrayal felt by Vietnam veterans who came home damaged, disabled, and despised by their countrymen, in no small part thanks to the constant drumbeat of venom and slander that spewed forth from Fonda and her comrades at the time.
LaRose wants Kent State to yank Fonda from the list of speakers.
“There’s still time to make the 50th anniversary commemoration of this awful day one that can be inclusive and educational for Ohioans, Americans and the world,” he wrote. “I urge Kent State University to immediately rescind their invitation to Ms. Fonda.”
I couldn’t agree more.
(And don’t even get me started on public universities shelling out taxpayer dollars to left-wing hacks like Fonda.)
Follow me on Twitter @pbolyard