Fox News military analyst Col. David Hunt, revived the baseless claim that actress and anti-Vietnam War activist Jane Fonda passed secret notes given to her by American prisoners of war to their Vietnamese captors, resulting in the POWs' torture and murder. In fact, the only surviving POW named in the rumor reportedly says he never met Fonda and that the accusation is "a figment of somebody's imagination."
On the April 20 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Hunt stated:
HUNT: This is about forgiving a woman who took notes from guys that were tortured for years, six, seven, eight, nine years, like [Sen. John] McCain [R-AZ], and take the note and give it to -- give it to their prisoner -- their guard. That is unconscionable. I'm not sure she can be forgiven.
The accusation against Fonda apparently originates from a chain letter that has been widely circulated via email. According to the letter:
[The POWs] had time and devised a plan to get word to the world that they still survived. Each man secreted a tiny piece of paper, with his SSN [Social Security number] on it, in the palm of his hand. When paraded before Ms. Fonda and a cameraman, she walked the line, shaking each man's hand and asking little encouraging snippets like: "Aren't you sorry you bombed babies?" and "Are you grateful for the humane treatment from your benevolent captors?" Believing this HAD to be an act, they each palmed her their sliver of paper.
She took them all without missing a beat. At the end of the line and once the camera stopped rolling, to the shocked disbelief of the POWs, she turned to the officer in charge and handed him the little pile of papers. Three men died from the subsequent beatings. Col. [Larry] Carrigan was almost number four but he survived, which is the only reason we know about her actions that day.
But Carrigan does not corroborate the letter's claims. David Emery of the Urban Legends and Folklore website at about.com has written:
"It's a figment of somebody's imagination," says Ret. Col. Larry Carrigan, whom I reached by phone at his home in Arizona. Carrigan, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, says he has no idea why this story was attributed to him. "I never met Jane Fonda," he told me. It goes without saying he never handed her a secret message.
The quotes attributed to Carrigan in Emery's account refuting the rumor have been published in several newspapers, including the September 19, 2000, edition of the Oregonian and the May 25, 2001, edition of the New York Daily News.
Emery also debunked another baseless attack on Fonda from the chain letter -- that another former POW, Air Force pilot Jerry Driscoll, spat on Fonda in Vietnam and was severely beaten for his actions. As Emery noted, Driscoll called the accusation "the product of a very vivid imagination."