National Women’s Hall of Fame may lose funding over induction of Jane Fonda

After the National Women’s Hall of Fame inducted actor Jane Fonda, the town that hosts the hall is considering pulling funding.

The hall of fame was established in 1969 in Seneca Falls, New York, where the first American women’s rights convention was held in 1848.

In a draft resolution, Seneca Falls town supervisor Greg Lazzaro decried Fonda’s 1972 visit to North Vietnam, during which she posed atop a Viet Cong anti-aircraft weapon, saying it was “derisive” and “universally condemned.”

He proposed ending the town’s partnership with the organization out of respect for veterans. The town council will vote on the resolution on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

“I realize back then there were real emotional views, but her views were unacceptable then and they’re unacceptable now,” Lazzaro told CNN. “I don’t believe she deserves to be in the hall of fame.”

Lazzaro said many community members have also approached him to express their disapproval, including members of the local branches of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Seneca Falls Vietnam veteran and VFW member David Ostroski said Fonda’s behavior in 1972 was “a slap in the face” and said he plans to speak at the town council meeting on Tuesday. “It’s like, are you kidding me?” he said. “In my home town, you want to do this?”

Kate Bennett, incoming chair of the National Women’s Hall of Fame board of directors, said the organization stands by its induction of Fonda, calling her a “powerful and visible influencer” in areas like Native American rights and environmentalism.

Bennett said the board itself does not make decisions about who to induct but helps select a panel of judges. “Women who are making a difference in this world aren’t always popular,” she said.

The town of Seneca Falls has long supported the Hall. According to the draft resolution, the town has donated $278,750 to the Hall since 2010 and it recently helped it secure a grant of more than $420,994 for a new building. Bennett confirmed the donation amount but wasn’t sure of the details of the grant. She said some of the funds will be used for new street lamps and sidewalks — improvements from which Seneca Falls as a whole will benefit.

Previous inductees like Rep. Nancy Pelosi have caused controversy, but Bennett said the board did not anticipate this response from the community. “We have been talking to town council members and many in the town and the town council are very supportive of the work we do,” said Bennett, who will speak at the meeting on Tuesday.

For his part, Lazzaro clarified that the issue at hand is “not about women’s rights.” “It’s about putting this lady in an organization which is a good organization,” he said. “Jane Fonda does not meet that criteria.”

Fonda, who now stars in the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie,” apologized for the incident in 1988. “I would like to say something, not just to the Vietnam veterans in New England, but … to men who were in Vietnam, who … I hurt, or whose pain I caused to be deepened, because of the things that I said or did,” she said at the time on ABC. “I … feel I owe them an apology.” Representatives for Fonda did not respond to a request for comment.

In an HBO documentary about her life that came out last year, Fonda said sitting on the gun was “a betrayal” and again expressed her regret.

For some, like Ostroski, it wasn’t enough. Joe Davis, director of communications for the VFW, said Fonda’s trip was “such an egregious act that it’s possible there never will be forgiveness.”

In a statement, the National Women’s Hall of Fame said it’s “disappointed” that it hasn’t had a chance to meet with the town about the issue. “We believe that all voices should be heard before there is such a drastic step as the proposed resolution,” the statement read. “That’s what democracy, and the efforts of women’s suffrage, are all about.”

Lazzaro said he is very open to meeting with the hall of fame, and said he sent them a copy of his draft resolution before it went public. Bennett said she had not known about the resolution beforehand.

The National Women’s Hall of Fame announced its 2019 inductees earlier this month, among them lawyer Gloria Allred, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and author Angela Davis. A press release from the announcement states that inductees are “nominated by the public” and “judged by an interdisciplinary team of experts.” It includes a disclaimer that the views of inductees “do not necessarily represent” those of the hall of fame.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up