Fact Check

John Kerry

Does a photograph show Senator John Kerry at a 1970 anti-war rally?

Published Feb 10, 2004


Urban Legends Reference Pages: (John Kerry)

John Kerry

Claim:   Photograph shows Senator John Kerry at a 1970 anti-war rally.

Status:   True.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2004]

John Kerry sitting behind Jane Fonda during an anti-war rally at Valley Forge, PA in September 1970.

John Kerry

Photo credit: Leif Skoogfors/Corbis

Origins:   This much-traveled photo which purports to show Massachusetts Senator (and the potential 2004 Democratic nominee for President) John Kerry at a September 1970 anti-war rally in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania has been confirmed as genuine. John Kerry appears in the background of the photo directly above Jane Fonda's head, sitting about three rows behind the actress. (Some online versions of this picture mistakenly identify the bearded man to the right of Jane Fonda as John Kerry.)

John Kerry

This picture comes from a rally held by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), an anti-war group with which Kerry was affiliated, held in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, on 7 September 1970. Kerry's campaign has confirmed that he was present at the rally and was a speaker at the event.

Actress Jane Fonda was also present at the Valley Forge rally (although she was not yet known as "Hanoi Jane," as her infamous visit to North Vietnam did not occur until two years later). Kerry's aides have stressed that John Kerry and Jane Fonda were only acquaintances, and that the rally was held before the actress' contentious trip to North Vietnam, an action that Kerry did not support.

Jane Fonda had this to say about the picture:

My reaction is that the American people have had it with the big lie. Any attempt to link Kerry to me and make him look bad with that connection is completely false. We were at a rally for veterans at the same time. I spoke, Donald Sutherland spoke, John Kerry spoke at the end. I don't even think we shook hands. And they're also saying this organization, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, was a Communist organization. This was an organization of men who risked their lives in Vietnam, who considered themselves totally patriotic. So anyone who slams that organization and slams Kerry for being part of it is doing an injustice to veterans. How can you impugn, how can you even suggest, that anyone like Kerry or any of these veterans were not patriotic? He was a hero there.

(A similar but fabricated image has since surfaced on the Internet.)

The New York Times covered the Valley Forge in 1970:

VALLEY FORGE, Pa., Sept. 7 — Chanting "What do you want?" and answering "Peace now," more than 100 veterans of the war in Vietnam arrived here today after a four-day march and led 1,500 other people in demanding an immediate American military withdrawal from South Vietnam.

The marchers, with weary muscles and blistered feet, formed a battle skirmish line in front of the Washington Memorial Chapel at the state park here and walked slowly on the wide expanse of the park's rolling grand parade ground. Their chants were answered by a growing chorus from the crowd below shouting "Stop the war, stop the war."

The marchers carried with them several black body bags that counted in white lettering outside the 43,419 men killed in the war.

Then, as the veterans converged on the rally site, they and the audience joined in the chant "All we are saying is give peace a chance."

The rally, which was organized by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a Manhattan-based group, ended an 84-mile march that began early Friday morning outside Morristown, N.J. Along the route, the marchers staged simulated battle incidents that portrayed alleged American brutality and war atrocities in Vietnam.

Although other veterans were in the crowd this afternoon, most of the audience that sprawled on the freshly mowed grass were young persons.

Earlier, as the column moved into the park after marching under a bright sun from its campsite north of here, a small group of veterans supporting American military policy in Vietnam established a counter-demonstration across the street from the chapel. As the line of marchers moved past, the opposing veterans exchanged insults.

David MacQueen, a 48-year-old member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars who said he won eight battle stars in the South Pacific in World War II, held a sign that said "Only the mentally depraved want peace at any price."

Another supporter of the war, carrying a Confederate flag, shouted "traitor" and "coward" as the marchers went by.

Among the speakers at the rally were Representative Allard K. Lowenstein, Democrat of Nassau County; Donald Sutherland, the actor; Jane Fonda, the actress; Mark Lane, the civil rights and antiwar lawyer and Charles Bevel, a leader of a black group from Baltimore, which is marching to the United Nations to protest alleged American genocide in South Vietnam.

The rally ended when the marchers smashed the toy sub-machine guns they had carried for the last four days.

Last updated:   12 February 2004


  Sources Sources:

    Todd, Brian.   "Kerry Confronts Image from Anti-Vietnam War Era."

    CNN.com.   11 February 2004.

    CNN.com.   "Kerry Takes New Fire Over Vietnam."

    12 February 2004.

    The New York Times.   "Antiwar Vietnam Veterans Finish 4-Day March."

    8 September 1970   (p. 4).


David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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