An astonishing dialog took place on ABC-TV’s The View yesterday morning. Jane Fonda, the guest, held forth on her refusal to accept the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. And when someone asked her what she would do about it, she replied with a word that provoked nervous laughter and caused the show’s host to say she wasn’t serious, and a co-host to change the subject. Because the subject was murder. Now we must ask: who are her intended targets? And why didn’t anyone seriously remonstrate with her and ask her to take her remarks back?
What Jane Fonda said
Nicholas Fondacero has the original one-minute snippet from Jane Fonda’s appearance on The View.
Citizen Free Press carried that same clip with an attempt at subtitling:
One YouTube influencer played the raw clip on his show:
Here is the dialog, as nearly as CNAV can reconstruct it:
Jane Fonda: We have experienced, for many decades now, … having agency over our body, and [plaintive tone] being able to determine when and how many children to have. We know what that feels like; we know what that’s done for our lives; we’re not going back. I don’t care what the laws are. [Resounding applause] We’re not going back. Women will rise up.
Sunny Hostin: That’s the activist. That’s Jane speaking, and she probably will get a Nobel Prize.
Fonda: But it’s the truth! It is the truth. I’m not going to do it.
Joy Behar: Besides marching and protesting, what else do you suggest?
Fonda [to Behar]: Murder.
Lily Tomlin: It’s … not a miraculous … what did you say?
Fonda [to Tomlin]: Murder. [Nervous laughter from the audience]
Sarah Haines: Wait a second. Did she just say…
Joy: She’s kidding.
Unknown: Don’t say that.
Joy: But you don’t know. They’ll pick up on that and run with it. She’s kidding, OK?
[More nervous laughter; Jane Fondalooks grimly at the camera, pressing her lips tightly closed.]
Sunny: Well, let’s move on and talk about Jane’s activism, which is legendary …
[End of clip.]
Whom does she propose to murder?
The only reason no one has arrested Jane Fonda by now is that she did not name a specific target. So her threat, if threat it was, is not credible, therefore not actionable. It might even qualify as political rhetoric, therefore protected speech.
So: does she have a specific target, or class of targets, in mind? Does he mean more unborn children? (She cannot mean any child she is carrying; she’s been menopausal long since.) The main difficulty with that theory is that she does not accept the proposition that abortion is murder. So when she speaks of murder, she’s talking about targets already born.
Is she talking about newborns? California almost passed a law that some could construe to allow that. Though by the time AB 2223 passed, the legislature had amended it to make clear that “perinatal death due to causes that occurred in utero” were required to exempt a woman from liability.
Far more likely, she is talking about adults who have by now changed the law of the land from the Roe v. Wade paradigm. And that would make her legally liable, had she done more than she did. She uttered one word, then repeated it when someone asked for confirmation. And then she sat in stony silence while the women around her refused to “draw the moral.” Audience and co-hosts alike even laughed at her, as if to say, “Surely we need not take her seriously.”
It almost happened already
The site Trending Politics carried an example of the speculation; their headline suggested Jane Fonda meant to target pro-life politicians. Citizen Free Press and Nicholas Fondacero said the same in their tweets. So did Greg Price:
Colin Rugg suggested Jane Fonda meant pro-life people generally:
That’s an awful lot of people – at least a hundred million voters. No wonder no one in authority took her seriously! What opportunity or means could she possibly have?
Well, maybe she isn’t going to do anything. But someone else has already tried. Justice Brett Kavanaugh has already become a specific target. After that, Justice Samuel A. Alito said the Great Leak set up the entire “Conservative Bench” as targets.
Nothing came of the plan against Kavanaugh, and no one has since thrown anything at the “Conservative Bench” but angry but empty words. That’s not true of several “crisis pregnancy centers” who have suffered night attacks, with equipment destruction and other property damage. (Sometimes the attackers mistakenly attack the wrong targets!) And the FBI has shown no inclination to do anything to stop it.
Joy Behar was correct: CNAV is “running with it.” Not because Jane Fonda’s threat was credible, but because she uttered it at all. And not only did she say it; she clearly meant it, or she wouldn’t have simmered in anger. She would have taken it back, or at least apologized for making a bad joke.
And what of the others? Lily Tomlin did a doubletake, Joy Behar tried to dismiss it, and Sunny Hostin changed the subject. But no one on that stage gave a thought to who, outside the studio, might draw inspiration from her words.
Decades ago, Oprah Winfrey had a guest on her show that launched into a spiteful diatribe. The sound-room censors “bleeped” out every other word he said – and Oprah calmly lectured him about proper television discourse. No one chose to take Jane Fonda to task this time. They treated her remark as absurd – which it was – but didn’t suggest she take it back, as they should have.
Again decades ago, the two major airports serving Dallas, Texas, carried signs in the “secure areas” or near their entrances:
Comments about guns and bombs are taken seriously. Please no jokes.
Murder is not a joking matter, either. Not on live television, nor for publication, and certainly not when explosive ideology has already claimed casualties and damage. (Nor when pyromania has found a convenient excuse.) Words mean things, and one who used words for a living for decades (to award-winning effect!) should remember that.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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