Sen. Janet Nguyen, whose ejection from the floor of the chamber last month turned her into something of a folk hero, had just wrapped up a rally at the Capitol Monday when Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León made his way toward the crowd.
Some of the demonstrators still assembled on the steps, including Vietnamese Americans who rode the bus from Nguyen’s Orange County district, jeered at de León, until one man stepped in to inform them that de León, too, has immigrant roots.
De León’s parents were born in Guatemala, and his father is Chinese, the man told them, relaying the powerful Democrat’s recently revealed background.
The crowd quieted down enough to allow for a brief conversation.
De León’s decision to take full responsibility for the incident was a positive step, one protester told him. Then, the man added, “but you didn’t apologize.”
“I’ll apologize. Where is she?” de León snapped back. The statement drew cheers.
Still, some in the group reiterated that they want him to express his remorse publicly, they told him.
At that point, de León turned to the cluster of trailing reporters, confessing that he was “a little confused” as to why the saga continues “to go on and on and on and on.”
“I think she enjoyed the 15 minutes of fame,” de León added of Nguyen, as the cameras looked on.
“And she doesn't want it to disappear, obviously.”
Later, on the Senate floor Nguyen strongly rejected the idea.
“Your statement to some media outlets downstairs that I’m doing this for my 15 minutes of fame are not only both wrong and extremely offensive, this is not and has never been about Janet Nguyen,” Nguyen said. “It is about the voices of the 34th Senate District and that the Vietnamese-American community was silenced.”
In another speech, De León expressed his respect and appreciation for the Vietnamese community. After, in the hallway, he tried to stop Nguyen to offer his apology on a television camera. She declined, and walked by him.