A photograph of John Kerry together with Jane Fonda at an anti-Vietnam War rally in 1970 in Pennsylvania has surfaced on the Internet, angering veterans who say his association with her 34 years ago is a slap in the faces of Vietnam War veterans.
The photograph, taken at a Labor Day rally at Valley Forge, has been circulating across the Internet, particularly among veterans. It was posted Monday on the NewsMax.com Web site.
Mr. Kerry spoke at the 1970 rally, the culmination of a three-day protest hike from Moorestown, N.J., to Valley Forge, which featured a speech by Miss Fonda and a reading by Hollywood actor Donald Sutherland.
"When he stands up with Jane Fonda, someone that is so notorious and hated by veterans, and Tom Hayden, and a couple of others as well and supports their agenda," Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, California Republican, said yesterday, "it diminishes the service some of us almost gave our lives for, and the over 56,000 people that lost their lives —it slaps their families in the face."
Mr. Cunningham was the first pilot to qualify as an ace in the Vietnam War, by shooting down at least five enemy airplanes.
"I think it's his right, but it kind of upsets you," Mr. Cunningham said. "He had honorable service, but it's a shame someone would let politics rule their life, instead of their principles."
Mr. Kerry, a Navy lieutenant, commanded patrol boats on South Vietnamese rivers and was wounded three times. On his return to the United States, he turned against the war, and at the time of the Valley Forge rally, he was beginning to gain notice as one of the leaders of the organization Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
He went on, in 1984, to become a U.S. senator from Massachusetts and is now the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Kerry campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said yesterday Mr. Kerry should not be associated in the public mind with Miss Fonda and her later trip to Hanoi, where she was photographed sitting astride a North Vietnamese antiaircraft gun.
"John Kerry and Jane Fonda were just acquaintances," Ms. Cutter said. "What's important to understand here is two things: He met her before she went to Vietnam, and he did not approve of her very controversial trip."
She said Mr. Kerry took part in the antiwar movement in order to bring U.S. troops home quickly.
"John Kerry served his country bravely," she said. "He was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for his service, and he praised the noble service of his fellow servicemen and women. After coming home, John Kerry worked to end the war so his fellow soldiers could come home, too."
Mr. Kerry testified in 1971 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, however, citing accusations that American soldiers in Vietnam routinely committed atrocities such as beheadings, killing children and razing villages. He did not present evidence of these claims.
John Hurley, national director of Veterans for Kerry, said that the antiwar movement included a mix of people and that Mr. Kerry should not be grouped with all of them.
"There were a lot of people protesting that war, some of whom he would agree with and some of whom he would disagree with," said Mr. Hurley, who marched with Mr. Kerry in Washington in 1971. "I don't think he had any control of that. It was the issue that was dominating. Like a lot of other vets coming back, we were angry and frustrated [that] guys were dying in Vietnam for no reason."
Mr. Kerry's protesting "saved more lives than not," he added.
Still, the photograph has spread quickly among Vietnam veterans browsing the Internet.
"If you mention Jane Fonda's name to a Vietnam veteran, it's a lightning-rod reaction," says Ted Sampley, publisher of the U.S. Veteran Dispatch and staunch opponent of Mr. Kerry. "She was supposed to be antiwar, but she clearly sided with one of the belligerents, which precludes her from being antiwar. She was a partisan."
Mr. Sampley first saw the photograph Monday on the Internet and purchased it for his online newsletter. He saw it pop up elsewhere, and he soon began receiving e-mail messages from readers who had seen the photograph.
"This picture exposes just how close John Kerry was to Jane Fonda," he says. However, he says the photograph doesn't reveal anything that many veterans of Vietnam didn't already know.
"Joining the antiwar movement was possibly the worst thing he could have done to the soldiers still in the field," he said. "He basically gave aid and comfort to the enemy."
The Vietnam War, though it ended more than three decades ago, has emerged as a central issue in the presidential campaign, as it did in previous campaigns. In 2000, President Bush faced questions about his service in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam war years. Those questions have been raised again this year.
Bill Clinton was criticized in 1992, when it was reported that he used political pressure to avoid the Vietnam-era draft after he ignored a written agreement to accept a slot in the ROTC at the University of Arkansas. He was further cited for his involvement in the antiwar movement as a student at Oxford University in England, including his work in coordinating the largest antiwar, anti-U.S. demonstration on foreign soil.
Mr. Kerry tells Democratic audiences at campaign appearances that he will be able to stand up to Mr. Bush on the issue. He frequently cites Mr. Bush's appearance on the deck of the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as misleading voters.
"I know something about aircraft carriers for real," he says.
Rep. Sam Johnson, Texas Republican, who spent nearly seven years in a prisoner-of-war camp in Vietnam, said yesterday the photograph of Mr. Kerry with Miss Fonda will hurt him nevertheless.
"I think it symbolizes how two-faced he is, talking about his war reputation, which is questionable on the one hand, and then coming out against our veterans who were fighting over there on the other," Mr. Johnson said.
Mr. Johnson recalled that his North Vietnamese captors played recordings of Miss Fonda telling U.S. troops to give up the war. "Seeing this picture of Kerry with her at antiwar demonstrations in the United States just makes me want to throw up."
•Jerry Seper and Charles Hurt contributed to this report.