Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has called on Kent State University to rescind its invitation to Jane Fonda to speak during the 50th commemoration weekend of the May 4 shootings.
In a tweet on Sunday, LaRose, who served for 10 years in the U.S. Army, wrote: “There’s still time to right this wrong @KentState - rescind your invitation to @JaneFonda. The anniversary of this tragedy is not the time to pay a speaker who betrayed our service members,” and linked to a longer statement.
LaRose’s office on Monday declined further comment.
During a Faculty Senate meeting last week, Kent State President Todd Diacon announced Fonda as one of the anniversary weekend speakers. She is scheduled to speak on May 3 as part of events to remember the 50-year anniversary of May 4, 1970 shootings, which left four dead and nine wounded.
The university is paying her $83,000, according to LaRose.
The selection of the actor and outspoken activist as one of the main speakers for the 50th anniversary has drawn mixed reactions.
Fonda drew bitter criticism after being photographed on top of an anti-aircraft gun during her controversial visit to North Vietnam in 1972. Decades later, during a press conference in 2018 to discuss an HBO documentary about her life, she expressed regret for the photo, the Associated Press reported.
“If you watch the HBO documentary on Jane Fonda that came out last year, one of the things she said very powerfully is that she does not regret having opposed the war in Vietnam, that it was absolutely the right thing to do, but she has regrets about the way she did it,” Diacon said last week. “It was a very meaningful moment that spoke to this goal we have of reconciliation.”
In an emailed statement Monday, Kent State spokesman Eric Mansfield said 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.”
“The legacy of May 4, 1970, has revealed lessons that today are more important than ever, including the importance of free speech and the need for civil dialogue,” Mansfield said. “Kent State has a long history of supporting respectful dialogue of all points of view.”
But following the announcement about Fonda’s upcoming Kent appearance, several people reached out to the Record-Courier to express their opposition. Many also criticized the choice on social media calling the decision disrespectful toward veterans.
LaRose’s longer, linked statement echoed several of those individuals’ sentiments.
“The 50th anniversary of one of Ohio’s darkest days has the potential to serve as a moment of unity, understanding and healing in a nation that is deeply divided. However, Kent State’s decision to pay Jane Fonda $83,000 to speak at their commemoration event does the very opposite,” LaRose wrote.
“I served 10 years in the US Army and eight years in the Ohio Senate before coming Secretary of State. I certainly understand that people disagree on policy issues, especially matters of war — and that’s ok. 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.
“American service members coming home 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.
“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. I urge Kent State University to immediately rescind their invitation to Ms. Fonda.”