1971 Photo of Kerry Doctored
By Michael Rothfeld
As a 20-year-old photographer documenting the country's struggle over the Vietnam War, Ken Light snapped the picture of John Kerry at a peace rally in Mineola. It captured the future senator alone at a podium, squinting into the sun.
Light did not photograph Jane Fonda on that warm June Sunday in 1971. The actress, who is reviled by many Vietnam veterans for her vocal stance against the war, did not even attend.
But when opponents of the Democratic presidential hopeful began e-mailing Light's picture to one another four days ago, it depicted Fonda standing by Kerry's side. The photo had been doctored.
"I'm horrified," said Light, 52, who grew up in East Meadow and now heads the graduate photojournalism program at the University of California at Berkeley. "I think this kind of alteration is probably one of the scariest forms of trickery, particularly when it's done against a political candidate."
Dag Vega, a spokesman for Kerry's campaign, said, "The smear tactics have started already."
Kerry, who co-founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War, spoke at the Register for Peace Rally on June 13, 1971, when thousands gathered for "the largest anti-war demonstration ever held on Long Island," according to a story in Newsday the next day. Light recalled Long Islanders of all ages sprawled across the State Supreme Court mall in Mineola, with American flags and peace symbols. Former members of Congress who attended included Bella Abzug, Allard Lowenstein and Lester Wolff. Folk singer Peter Yarrow entertained, and the rally ended with a burst of thunder and lightning.
Light, a student in Ohio at the time, took the picture of Kerry but never published it, and it sat in his files until two weeks ago when he shipped it to Corbis, his Seattle-based agent, which placed it in its online archives.
That is apparently where someone found it, and attempted to capitalize on the attention garnered by an authentic photo of Kerry and Fonda at a Vietnam-era rally -- seated some distance apart -- posted early this month on a Web site called www.vietnamveteransagainstjohnkerry.com. The Web site's creator, Ted Sampley, a Vietnam veteran from North Carolina, said he received the doctored photo by e-mail on Wednesday from a woman in Richmond, Va.
"Thought you might want to include this pic on your site," said the note from Loree Siemek, with an attachment called "HanoiJohn.jpg," a takeoff on "Hanoi Jane," the derisive nickname given to Fonda by her critics during the Vietnam era. It is made to look like a newspaper clipping, headlined "Fonda Speaks to Vietnam Veterans at Anti- War Rally," with an Associated Press photo credit. Sampley said he was immediately skeptical, and e-mailed it to some friends who concluded it was faked. He did not post it.
"I looked at it and it didn't feel right," Sampley said in an interview. "It just looked too good."
Siemek, 34, reached by phone, said she found the picture on a conservative Internet message board and had no idea it was phony.
"This thing has spiraled out of control," Siemek said. "If I had any thought that photo was not real, I would never have forwarded it to the veterans' group."