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Kerry takes new fire over Vietnam

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(CNN) -- The publication of an old photo of Jane Fonda and John Kerry at an anti-Vietnam War rally is raising questions about the antiwar activities of the Democratic presidential front-runner.

Kerry, a much decorated Vietnam War veteran, became an antiwar activist after he returned to the United States. (Kerry's biography)

The photograph, taken on Labor Day 1970, shows Fonda at an antiwar rally in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Kerry, who at the time led a group called Vietnam Veterans Against The War, can be seen in background behind her.

Kerry's campaign confirmed that he was at the rally and spoke.

The conservative Internet site published the three-decades-old photo Monday as President Bush was facing continuing questions about his attendance record for National Guard duty during the Vietnam era. (Full story)

But aides stressed that Kerry and Fonda were only acquaintances, and the meeting took place two years before Fonda took a controversial trip behind enemy lines and posed for pictures on a North Vietnam army anti-aircraft gun which prompted her angry detractors to dub her "Hanoi Jane."

Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, told the Washington Times that Kerry's attendance at the rally with Fonda "symbolizes how two-faced he is, talking about his war reputation, which is questionable on the one hand, and then coming out against our veterans who were fighting over there on the other."

Kerry enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1966 and served as the officer of a swift boat that patrolled the Mekong Delta. He left Vietnam in 1969 after being wounded three times. He was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple hearts.

His campaign Web site says Kerry became an antiwar demonstrator because he believed that decisions "were being made to protect those in positions of authority in Washington at the expense of the soldiers carrying on the fighting in Vietnam."

In 1971, Kerry and other veterans threw their military decorations and dog tags onto the steps of the Capitol.

"This was an organization of men who risked their lives in Vietnam, who considered themselves totally patriotic," Fonda said of Kerry's antiwar group.

Fonda also dismissed attempts to link Kerry to her controversial antiwar past with the photograph as "a dirty black propaganda tactic."

"My reaction is that the American people have had it with the big lie," she told CNN Wednesday. "Any attempts 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.

"I'm tired of the government lying. I'm tired of people desperately pulling out anything that they can do to hurt another candidate, and I think that the American people feel that way, too," she said. "It's a bunch of hogwash."

She also said that she does not recall meeting Kerry during the antiwar movement, although she said she did meet him years later after he became a senator and she was married to Ted Turner, who founded CNN but no longer has any management role with the network.

Kerry aides said he did not support Fonda's trip to Vietnam, an action for which many veterans still refuse to forgive her more than 30 years later.

On the campaign trail, Kerry frequently talks about both his war record and his antiwar activities after coming home, and he has said he is proud of both.

But his so-called association with Fonda has begun to draw fire from conservatives and veterans.

"It bothered us, anyone who associated themselves with Jane Fonda, with (her husband)Tom Hayden, with the antiwar movement," said Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-California, a former Navy pilot shot down in 1972.

"We just wanted to do our job, complete our mission for our country that sent us and come back alive. And having people like Sen. Kerry protest that was kind of a slap in the face to us."

But the president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, Bobby Muller, said Kerry has strong support among Vietnam vets.

"We have been contacted by veterans across the country [asking], 'How do I connect to the Kerry campaign?'" he said. "I have not seen in the 26 years that I've been in Washington, ever, the kind of dynamic and energizing of a Vietnam veteran community in this country as I am right now."

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