California’s Orange County Democratic Party Vice Chair Jeff LeTourneau resigned on Sept. 3 after comments he posted on social media praising Vietnam’s Communist leader Ho Chi Minh drew widespread condemnation.
LeTourneau shared a Facebook post on Aug. 31 that described Minh as someone who “liberated an entire poor, colonized nation from 2 of the most powerful imperial military forces in the world (the US and France) and won full independence for the people of Vietnam.”
LeTourneau deleted the comment 90 minutes after he originally posted it as a result of the backlash he received from politicians on both ends of the spectrum.
“In the past days, the trauma that Ho Chi Minh’s dictatorship wrought on Vietnamese members of our community has been made abundantly clear to me,” LeTourneau wrote in his resignation letter.
“To the almost 35,000 Vietnamese members of the Democratic Party in Orange County, and to all Vietnamese members in our community, I apologize for sharing the post. I hope that my resignation from leadership positions in the Democratic Party would be a first step in healing and reconciliation for our communities.”
Westminster Mayor Tri Ta told The Epoch Times he “couldn’t believe” LeTourneau had shared the post in the first place.
“The Vietnamese, we came here because of freedom. So in the community, we are really anti-communist,” Ta said.
“So the community, I think this election, the Vietnamese-American voter will do research, they will try to find who will support the community, who will stand with the community, and who will continue to fight for freedom and human rights.”
A news conference was held on Sept. 1 at Westminster’s Freedom Park—site of the city’s Vietnam War Memorial—to denounce the statement. Among those present included Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Huntington Beach), state Assembly candidate Diedre Nguyen, and Democratic Party Chair Ada Briceño.
“I am at a loss for how Mr. Jeff LeTourneau could make such a grievous statement, especially given Little Saigon’s status as the largest collection of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam,” Diedre Nguyen told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.
“We have always been clear and unequivocal in the message that Ho Chi Minh and the communists were, and continue to be, a brutal, human rights violating regime.”
Janet Nguyen, the Republican candidate for the Assembly who is running against Diedre Nguyen, told The Epoch Times she was also appalled by the post.
“My father fought against Ho Chi Minh’s communist forces and my uncle was murdered by Ho Chi Minh’s violent thugs,” Janet Nguyen said in an emailed statement.
“Many Vietnamese Americans have direct relatives who gave their lives fighting for freedom against Ho Chi Minh. For a leader of the Democratic Party to praise communist Ho and label America’s military as imperialist is both highly offensive and historically wrong.”
She added that “58,000 Americans died while serving in Vietnam and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were forced to flee for their lives.”
She said she believes the incident “will harm every Democratic candidate running in communities with large numbers of Vietnamese American voters like Westminster.”
Diedre Nguyen said she hopes the incident “will inspire more people to come out and vote.”
“Freedom isn’t free,” she said. “If we don’t engage in the process we risk losing our democracy. We risk losing it to people who admire tyrants and despots. So, everyone needs to vote.”
Sergio Contreras, a Democrat running for county supervisor, had immediately called for LeTourneau to resign and apologize for the comments.
He told The Epoch Times via email, “The Democratic Party and its officers must always stand unequivocally for the core values of democracy—freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press—and recognize that until the Vietnamese people enjoy these basic human rights, they can never be free.”
The Vietnamese community in Orange County is one of the largest in the world outside of Vietnam itself. Many arrived as a result of the war, which ended in 1975 with the fall of Saigon.