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The leaders of Orange County’s two major political parties are condemning racist comments last week directed at the county’s top elected official, Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do.
The parties’ rebukes came nearly a week after a vaccination critic told Do at a county supervisors’ meeting to “go the f*** back to Vietnam” and compared him to a “parasite.”
“The Republican Party of Orange County condemns in the strongest terms the racist and xenophobic remarks made during public comment against Republican Supervisor Andrew Do during the most recent Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting,” OC GOP Chairman Fred Whitaker said in a statement Monday.
“Those sentiments are not welcome in our party,” he added.
Local Democrats put out a similar statement the same day.
“Hate has no home in Orange County,” said OC Democratic Party Chairwoman Ada Briceño.
“The Democratic Party is committed to stamping out hate in America, and we call on everyone to join in this commitment” she added.
Briceño said the immigrant community hears these types of comments too often.
“Regarding recent hateful racist attacks toward Supervisor Andrew Do, unfortunately, such comments are not foreign to many immigrants in Orange County. As an immigrant, I know this well. But I also know the resiliency of our communities. We will push back against hate.”
Public comment during county supervisors meetings has become increasingly hostile, especially towards Do. Several anti-vaccine commenters have alleged that Do — who fled a Communist regime as a child refugee — is trying to turn American into a communist country.
“You come to my country, and you act like one of these communist parasites, I ask you to go the f*** back to Vietnam,” said a man who identified himself as Tyler Durden – a fictional character from the movie Fight Club – at last Tuesday’s meeting.
The racist “go back” comment brought cheers from several audience members at the supervisors’ meeting, according to the meeting video.
Democratic State Senator Dave Min defended Do, a Republican, the day after the meeting.
“The comments made at [yesterday’s] Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting attacking the Chair because of his Asian heritage and questioning his loyalty to this country serve as another painful reminder that there are still those here in Orange County who would traffic in the vilest and most disgusting types of anti-Asian racism,” Min said in his statement.
Most of Do’s colleagues joined the chorus of condemnation when contacted for comment Tuesday by Voice of OC.
“I have no words that are strong enough to condemn the racist comments that were directed at Andrew Do at last week’s board meeting,” said Supervisor Doug Chaffee, adding he’s fortunate to work with Do.
“I certainly condemn the comments,” Supervisor Don Wagner told Voice of OC.
Wagner said he spoke with Do immediately after last Tuesday’s meeting.
“I said to Andrew right after the meeting that the remarks were outrageous, and knowing Andrew’s history, that he understands what it truly means to be an American more than do the anonymous bigots with their stupid attacks on him.”
Supervisor Katrina Foley said people like the man who made the racist comment have increasingly influenced public meetings.
“It’s sad when policy discussions degrade to bigoted comments and personal attacks … I will continue to object and condemn but that’s never enough. Sadly, this small group monopolizes the discussion in the boardroom because unvaccinated people are allowed in and other concerned citizens don’t feel welcome or safe.”OC Supervisor Katrina Foley
Foley added that if more safety measures — like masks — were followed, more voices could be represented during public comment.
“I think if we followed health guidance then we may see more diverse voices from our community,” she said.
Do didn’t return a phone message for comment.
Two years ago, Do, a Republican, publicly pushed back against language President Trump used calling on four non-white U.S. congresswomen to “go back” to their countries.
Do called such language “bigotry” and related it to “hatred” he said led to assaults against his family when he was growing up as a Vietnamese refugee in Orange County. His family immigrated after South Vietnam fell to North Vietnam in 1975.
“It’s a very narrow line between classifying people by color, and then the next step is to ‘go back to where you come from.’ I have to push back on that type of close-mindedness, bigotry,” Do said at the July 2019 meeting of the county Board of Supervisors.
“I grew up with people using the exact same language — the exact same way that they viewed me,” Do continued.
“And it was a narrow line from that motivation to the hatred they filled their life with that led to me being – and my family being – assaulted over and over. And I will be damned if I am going to accept, without fighting back, one more day of that type of bigotry.”
Orange County, along with the rest of the country, has seen a spike in anti-Asian rhetoric and hate crimes since the pandemic began last year.
Hate crimes against Asian Americans in Orange County increased tenfold between 2019 and 2020, according to OC Human Relations Commission, which is still compiling data on hate crimes and plans to release their own report in September.
The escalating hostility of vaccination opponents towards the board has not been lost on county officials.
“We’ll it’s not getting nicer, that’s for sure,” Chaffee told Voice of OC this week. “I think that the hostility has gotten worse since we let the public back in the [meeting] chambers.”
The latest racist remarks against Do also brought condemnation from elected officials who often are at odds with Do.
“I don’t agree with OC [Board of Supervisors] Chair Andrew Do on much, but NO ONE should experience this racist vitriol,” Santa Ana Councilwoman Thai Viet Phan said on Twitter.
“The horrible irony is that in America, there are few [people] more anti-Communist than Vietnamese refugees who lost everything to an authoritarian regime,” she added.
Phan noted that despite her husband serving in the military and the couple being in a long distance marriage for years, “Sometimes it feels we will always be treated as foreigners.”
“But this is my country, too, [and] I sure as hell am not going to let some racists take that from me.”
Voice of OC staff writer Spencer Custodio contributed reporting.