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At rally for state Sen. Janet Nguyen, De Léon offers an apology — and a dig: 'She enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame'

The show of support for Republican state Sen. Janet Nguyen from California's Vietnamese American community continued Monday in a Capitol rally that drew a crowd of hundreds who traveled from Orange County, San Jose and the Bay Area.

Nguyen, who represents Garden Grove, has seen her political profile sharply rise since she was removed from the Senate floor less than two weeks ago after she attempted to critique the anti-Vietnam War activism of the late Democratic legislator Tom Hayden.

"This is our time to shine," Nguyen told the crowd on Monday, as she was flanked by fellow GOP lawmakers and leaders of Vietnamese American community groups and Vietnam War veterans. "Free speech needs to be protected everywhere in the United States."

The gathering followed a rally in Nguyen's home district over the weekend , where Vietnamese American leaders portrayed Nguyen as a civil rights leader akin to Rosa Parks.

The incident continues to ripple through the state Senate. A three-person panel of Senate staffers was tapped to investigate the lead-up to and aftermath of Nguyen's removal. Republican Senate Leader Jean Fuller has asked for those involved to testify under oath and has called for public hearings on the matter. She said on Monday she had not received a response from Senate leader Kevin de Léon (D-Los Angeles).

"We need an answer," Fuller said. "We don't want this to happen again."

De Léon, along with Sens. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), were all subjects of Nguyen supporters' ire due to their roles in objecting to the senator's remarks. When De Léon came to address the crowd Monday afternoon, he was greeted with jeers and chants of "free speech."

De Léon explained to attendees that Nguyen had violated parliamentary rules, but repeated his remarks last week in which he took "full responsibility" for her removal.

"It will never happen again," De Léon said.

When a Nguyen supporter asked specifically for an apology, De Léon responded, "I'll apologize. Where is she?"

Nguyen, at that point, had already left the rally.

"I think she enjoyed the 15 minutes of fame," De Léon later told reporters. "And she doesn't want it to disappear, obviously."

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