Sorry, Hollywood. Tonya Harding doesn’t deserve victim status

I watched the Golden Globe awards and I have to say I was really surprised to see the attempt made to rehabilitate the reputation of disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding. I didn’t realize that a movie, I, Tonya, is out about her life.

Actress Allison Janney won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Tonya’s mother. Harding was a guest at the table occupied by the movie’s cast and executives. They were downright giddy for the audience to know that the movie’s real-life subject was there. As I watched the display, I thought “how weird is this?” Since when is Tonya Harding a sympathetic figure instead of a thuggish bully convicted of a felony – hindering a prosecution and covering up a crime? Janney claimed that poor Tonya is just misunderstood and the victim of snobbish figure skating community.


“She wasn’t embraced for her individuality enough,” Janney told USA TODAY in a red-carpet interview. “I don’t think the figure skating world embraced her or wanted her to succeed because they didn’t think she represented the kind of woman they wanted to represent the figure skating community, that they wanted to represent America.”


Tonya’s strongest competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, was the victim in that hideous 1994 attack in Detroit by a hitman as she practiced for a national championship performance, not Harding. Harding’s “bodyguard” was paid by Jeff Gillooley, her live-in ex-husband, to put together a hit team with two other guys to kneecap Kerrigan with a metal baton so she couldn’t compete for the championship. The plan was detailed enough that the attacker had instructions to injure her landing leg so that she wouldn’t be able to skate.

ABC ran a two- hour show devoted to Tonya’s personal and professional story. It was titled Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story. How crazy is that? Video clips were shown from her early childhood through her adult life. She was portrayed as an abused kid who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks with a neglectful single mother. Her mother was interviewed and disputed Tonya’s claims of physical and mental abuse. An interesting tidbit came out, too. Up until now, Tonya continued to claim she had no knowledge of the attack against Kerrigan prior to it happening. She admitted in the ABC show, though, that she heard Jeff Gillooley and his two friends talking about taking Kerrigan out.

At trial, Harding received a $100,000 fine and 3 months’ probation for her role in the planning of the crime after papers were found with the address of the ice rink where Kerrigan was training written out in Tonya’s handwriting. She also was forced to resign from the U.S. Figure Skating Federation.

Tonya Harding will always be remembered as the first figure skater to successfully do a triple axel jump in competition. She will also be remembered as a scheming thug, too. I don’t know why Hollywood is now trying to normalize her behavior and turn her into a red-carpet celebrity. All the glitter in the world isn’t going to make her story sparkle. She’s not a victim.

Jazz Shaw Aug 10, 2022 8:01 AM ET