Last week, California Democrats censured refugee and Republican state senator Janet Nguyen for speaking “out of order” on the senate floor when she condemned Vietnam’s communist rule that affected her and many of her Vietnamese-American constituents. Nguyen took issue with a ceremony honoring Tom Hayden, a former member of the body who was famous for protesting the Vietnam War and supporting Hanoi along with his then-wife Jane Fonda.
As she tried to continue speaking, officers forcibly removed her:
Under the supervision of Democratic senate president Kevin de León, presiding senator Ricardo Lara ordered sergeants to remove her. Democratic senator Bill Monning approved, calling her criticism of Hayden “inappropriate.” But it may have actually been her removal that was inappropriate; León has promised a nonpartisan review to determine whether Democrats had any grounds to forcibly expel her from the chamber. Nguyen maintains that they did not, since she was using the adjourn-in-memory period for the “adjournment in memory of Vietnamese and Vietnamese refugees,” many of whom were and are her constituents.
Democrats hurt their case by giving Nguyen inconsistent answers on the matter, with an aide to de León denying her the chance to speak as a “point of personal privilege” and recommending she post on Facebook instead, while Senator Monning criticized her for not objecting at the ceremony itself. Presumably, the nonpartisan review will determine whether Democrats acted in adherence to established rules — as Republicans apparently did in the much-discussed silencing of Elizabeth Warren.
The message Nguyen was prevented from giving can be read here. In the future, Vietnamese-American state senators should be allowed some time to speak frankly about Vietnam’s communist regime, even if that awkwardly implicates Democrats who supported it.