California State Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove), was forcibly removed from the Senate Thursday morning for offering a different perspective on the late Sen. Tom Hayden, a Democrat with a well-known and lengthy history of communist sympathies.
The perspective Sen. Nguyen offers is first hand. Her family escaped communist Vietnam and came to the United States in search of freedom in 1981 during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
Sen. Nguyen and I spoke Thursday shortly after the incident. She said Tuesday the Senate had scheduled a memorial for the late former state Sen. Tom Hayden, who died in October. Hayden served 18 years in the Legislature.
The left has always portrayed Hayden as a “counterculture figure who led civil rights and antiwar protests in the 1960s.” However, “When Joan Baez organized a petition to protest Hanoi’s racist pogrom against Vietnam’s ethnic-Chinese minority, Hayden defended Hanoi,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “The fact is that Hayden’s life was in large part a crusade for the cause of the Vietnamese communists. He returned from his trip to Hanoi in 1965 singing the praises of North Vietnam.”
Nguyen said she had prepared a speech offering her perspective on what Hayden meant to the Vietnamese people for the Tuesday Senate memorial, but because his family was there, she chose to wait for another day.
Sen. Nguyen and her staff asked Senate Rules what the proper process was for presenting her comments in the Senate. But she was told she could not make the speech about Hayden, and should “respect others’ perspectives about Hayden and his many decades of public service.”
“I was told I could prepare a statement for my Senate website or my Facebook page,” Nguyen said.
Undeterred, Thursday, Nguyen began her speech in Vietnamese, and switched to English, at which time she was quickly cut off by Democratic leadership.
“Today I recognize in memory the millions of Vietnamese and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees who died in seeking for freedom and democracy,” Sen. Nguyen said. “On Tuesday you had an opportunity to honor Sen. Tom Hayden. With all due respect, I would like to offer this historical perspective…” At that point Nguyen was cut off by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), presiding over the Senate, who then gave the floor to Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel). While Nguyen was still trying to give her speech, Monning repeatedly yelled over her that she was out of order.
Upon Lara’s order, Nguyen’s microphone was lowered by a Sergeant, but she continued her speech, even as Lara repeatedly asked her to sit down. He eventually ordered the sergeants to remove Sen. Nguyen from the Senate floor.
“Sergeants, please remove Sen. Nguyen from the chamber,” Lara said. “Have her removed immediately. Sergeants, please remove Sen. Nguyen, she is out of order.”
Nguyen said she found the Democrats’ attempts to silence her ironic, when in May 2016, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) spoke in opposition to a resolution honoring former President Ronald Reagan for advancing the public good. Leno was critical of Reagan’s cuts to AIDS research funding, spoke at length against Reagan, and said he would not support the resolution.
Others critical of Sen. Lara’s behavior in the Senate chimed in.
“If Senator Ricardo Lara is allowed to keep his leadership position in the same way that Assemblyman Roger Hernandez stayed on as the Labor Committee Chairman after abusing his role, then we are doomed to see incidents like this repeat themselves,” Assemblyman Matthew Harper (R- Huntington Beach) said in a message to me. In 2015 during a committee hearing, Harper tried to speak, when Hernandez shut off Harper’s microphone. When Harper objected, Hernández reached across the desk of an Assembly staff member, and physically tried to shut off Harper’s microphone. Then Hernández ordered Assembly Sergeants to remove Harper’s microphone. Hernández immediately forced the vote on the bill, without discussion or debate.
Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, strenuously objected, but Hernández also told him to be quiet.
“I’m enraged at the violation to free speech, our Constitution and the precedent this sets,” said Senate Republican Leader Jean Fuller, who is asking the Senate Rules Committee to look into what happened. “I do not believe a Democratic staffer should be able to tell one of the elected members that they are not allowed to use their freedom of speech rights to represent their people. All of her comments were legitimately representing the people in her district.”
Here is the raw footage from CBS Sacramento of the incident in the Senate: http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/video/category/news-local-news/3627112-raw-video-california-state-sen-janet-nguyen-removed-from-senate-floor/#.WK9ElhkUecM.twitter
Watch the Senate staffer tell Sen. Lara what to do, telling him to keep telling Nguyen to sit down, and then telling him have her removed.
Kinh thưa qúy Thượng Nghị Sĩ và quý đồng hương:
Tôi và những người con của Chiến Sĩ Việt Nam Cộng Hòa sẽ không bao giờ quên sự ủng hộ của Cựu Thượng Nghị Sĩ Tom Hayden cho Cộng Sản Việt Nam và sự đàn áp của Cộng Sản Việt Nam đối với người dân Việt Nam. Sau 40 năm, việc làm của các vị như Ông, đã hại người dân Việt Nam và đã ngăn cản những người Việt Nam vượt biên như gia đìh chúng tôi đến đất nước tự do Hoa Kỳ. Chúng tôi sẽ tiếp tục tranh đấu cho tự do, dân chủ và nhân quyền cho người dân tại Việt Nam.
ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF OPENING STATEMENT
Dear Senators and the People:
I and the children of the former South Vietnam soldiers will never forget the support of former Senator Tom Hayden for the Communist government of Vietnam and the oppression by the Communist Government of Vietnam for the people of Vietnam.
After 40 years, the efforts by people like him have hurt the people of Vietnam and have worked to stop the Vietnamese refugees from coming to the United States, a free country. We will always continue to fight for freedom and human rights for the people of Vietnam.
Members, I recognize today in memory of the million of Vietnamese and the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees who died seeking freedom and democracy. I recognize that on Tuesday you had an opportunity to honor Senator Tom Hayden. With all due respect, I would like to offer another historical perspective.
On Tuesday, instead of participating, I chose to step out of the chamber out of respect to his family, his friends and to you. In contrast to your comments on Tuesday, I want to share what Senator Hayden meant to me and to the over 500,000 Vietnamese Americans who call California their home, as well as to the over 1 million Vietnamese Americans across the United States.
As you may be aware, Tom Hayden chose to work directly with the Communist North Vietnamese Government to oppose the efforts of United States forces in South Vietnam.
Mr. Hayden sided with a communist government that enslaved and/or killed millions of Vietnamese, including members of my own family. Mr. Hayden’s actions are viewed by many as harmful to democratic values and hateful towards those who sought the very freedoms on which this nation is founded.
Were it not for the efforts of the thousands of men and women who served bravely in the United States military and the South Vietnamese military, as well as the efforts of millions of Vietnamese citizens who resisted the communists, I would not be standing here on this Senate floor humbly representing the residents of the 34th District.
In addition to the sacrifices made during war, the efforts of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s allowed many Vietnamese like me to seek refuge in the United States.
In contrast to the great many people who fought to defend freedom and democracy, Mr. Hayden supported a Communist agenda and traveled to North Vietnam during the war.
He believed that those who protested the human-rights violations of the Communists were tools of the CIA. It is known that he believed that the war was a conflict between Imperialism, led by the United States and the “free” people of North Vietnam. Former Senator Hayden was profoundly wrong in his support of the Communist.
Members, to this day, the government of Vietnam continues to violate the basic human rights of its citizens. They systematically continue to oppress freedoms of expression, religion and assembly and incarcerate those who speak out for freedom and democracy.
Thank you for allowing me to make my comments. I proudly stand before you as a Vietnamese-American who appreciates the freedoms that so many around the world do not enjoy.