June 23, 2018
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Vietnam veterans protest Fonda’s role in the movie ‘The Butler’ outside Lewiston theater

Daryn Slover | Sun Journal
Daryn Slover | Sun Journal
Vietnam veterans Steve Spooner, left, of Auburn and Dane Tripp of Poland protest Jane Fonda's role in the movie "The Butler" at Flagship Cinemas in Lewiston on Monday.
By Scott Taylor, Sun Journal

LEWISTON, Maine — Don’t judge the sparse turnout at their Monday noon protest or their politeness as a lack of passion and anger over the way Vietnam Veterans have been treated.

Steven Spooner, 64, and Dane Tripp, 68, are truly angry that Jane Fonda has a starring role in the newly released movie “The Butler.”

“When we were young fellas, we saw these pictures of ‘Hanoi Jane’ sitting all smiles on an anti-aircraft weapon in a North Vietnamese helmet,” Spooner, of Auburn, said. “In our minds and our hearts, then and to this day, those were acts of treason. She was providing aid and comfort to the enemy while our brothers were dying, while we were bleeding for this country.”

They are not the only ones angry, although they were the only ones outside Lewiston’s Flagships Cinema holding signs Monday afternoon.

“It doesn’t matter how many people show up,” Spooner said. “If we can educate one patron going into the theater, then it was worth it.”

“The Butler” opened this weekend in theaters across the county. It was the top box office draw at the movie theaters this weekend, despite occasional protests from Vietnam veterans and their supporters.

“We have nothing against the theater, nothing against the movie itself,” Tripp said. “I’m sure it’s very historical. There’s no malice against the movie, just the person they cast in it.”

Their anger stems from Fonda’s visit to Vietnam in 1972. Fonda was already an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War when she traveled to North Vietnam and was photographed laughing and singing with North Vietnamese troops.

It amounted to giving aid and comfort to the enemy, Spooner said. That’s treason, he said.

“We were under so much scrutiny,” Spooner said. “Any little mistake, it was used as proof that we were drug crazed baby killers. But she did this and she’s famous and the friend of all those politicians.”

The actress has since apologized, saying it was one of the biggest mistakes she’s made.

But that’s not enough, Spooner said.

“She would have to stand trial for treason for me to be satisfied,” Spooner said. “She not only would need to stand trial, but our government would need to stand up and say ‘We did know she was wrong and we were, too, for not pursuing it.'”

The fact that she plays First Lady Nancy Reagan is just salt in the wound.

“To me, that is a slap in the face to every American citizen there is,” Tripp said. “To depict her with that …? It just seems strange, that’s all.”

Spooner said he took part in Internet mailing campaigns when he first learned Fonda was up for the role. He began talking to friends and other former vets when it was released, urging them to come out.

Only Tripp joined him, and it was a mannered protest. Both men promised Manager Shane Phalen that they would stay clear of the entrance and would not harass his customers. Phalen thanked them, both for their manners and for their service.

The two men waited until 1 p.m., when the matinee showing of the movie was scheduled to begin and then went on their way.

“I feel better today because I voiced my opinion, because I stood up and said this was wrong,” Spooner said. “I never spoke out against anybody before. All I wanted to do was to be left alone. But now, I’m not afraid to speak.”

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