BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Eight Honolulu City Council Members voted to condemn the nation’s leading conservative talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, for what they say is his mocking of China’s president and the Chinese language.
Introduced by Council Member Stanley Chang and Romy Cachola, Resolution 11-34 CD1 not only asks Limbaugh to apologize for his January 19, 2011 remarks, but it also encourages his advertisers to pull their support. The measure, which was part of a national campaign that went from Hawaii to San Francisco to New York against Limbaugh by Democrat legislators, passed third and final reading in the non-partisan council on February 23, 2011. The debate was rebroadcast today on Olelo television.
But not all council members agreed to back the resolution. Newly elected Council Member Tom Berg, who represents District 1 and was ushered into office with support of the Honolulu tea party members, said his constituents told him that the resolution is a waste of time and that the council should be tending to other business, including the balancing the budget and fighting proposed tax hikes.
“I got a lickings from my constituents and told I had to stand up for what is right,” Berg said, after initially agreeing to support the resolution in committee. “Please don’t call me a bigot. I stand up against all prejudice. But this resolution does not belong here.”
Berg, who wrote a commentary for Hawaii Reporter about the resolution, said that local comedians and Saturday Night Live have made much more offensive comments about Chinese people and he asked why there was not a resolution for them as well.
Chang says that he introduced the resolution to express his “values” and “feelings” including how deeply offended he was by remarks about the Chinese president and language. Hawaii is known throughout the world for the “aloha spirit” and hospitality, and Chang said he feels it is his job to encourage harmony throughout the world.
Cachola said he co-introduced the resolution because he “believes it is the right thing to do.” He again encouraged advertisers to pull their support. “We are not just asking him to apologize, but we are asking advertisers and listeners to boycott the program.” He added, “We are not wasting out time, we are making a difference.”
Michael Rethman, DDS, wrote a letter to his council members asking them to oppose the resolution in part because they were defending a dictator and discouraging freedom of speech while they should be focusing on more important issues at hand.
“Paramount Leader Hu Jintao is a Communist dictator who, for one thing, imprisoned his countryman Liu Xiaobo, to keep him from collecting his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo just weeks ago.
“Second, any motivation on your part or that of your colleagues that would barter American freedoms — however distasteful Limbaugh’s or anyone’s mocking may seem to you, Hu or anyone — to purportedly encourage tourism from the PRC suggests a metaphor regarding the biblical Judas’s thirty pieces of silver.”
“Third, and we can respectfully disagree on this although I don’t see how you could if you had actually heard the broadcast, that what Limbaugh said about a Hu had everything to do with him being a Communist dictator and had nothing to do with insulting Chinese-Americans.
“Finally and most important, is that free political speech is an absolute right in the United States (of which Hawaii is one) and it’s my opinion that you and your colleagues should avoid innuendo suggesting otherwise and instead roundly condemn any attempts to suppress it, either before or after the fact,” Rethman said.
Chang and Cachola earlier were asked to answer questions sent by Hawaii Reporter via email about the resolution and pledged to do so jointly. However, no such statement was ever submitted. Phone calls to both for comment on the resolution were not returned.
Final comments came from Council member Breene Harimoto, former Board of Education chair, who said local people of Chinese ancestry were offended, so he would support the measure.
So what did Limbaugh actually say when talking about the Chinese president? “He was speaking and they weren’t translating. They normally translate every couple of words. Hu Jintao was just going ching chong, ching chong cha.” He spent an estimated 20-second seconds afterward copying the Chinese leader’s dialect. The next day, he countered the criticism against him: “Back in the old days, Sid Caesar, for those of you old enough to remember, was called a comic genius for impersonating foreign languages that he couldn’t speak. But today the left says that was racism; it was bigotry; it was insulting. And it wasn’t. It was a service.”
Following the 8-1 vote on the Limbaugh resolution, all council members agreed to support a resolution that deemed 2011 “The year of Dr. Sun Yat-sen in Honolulu.”
Sun Yat-sen, born in 1866, was raised in Hawaii by his older brother attending Iolani and Punahou Schools, two of Hawaii’s most private prestigious schools. He became a doctor and worked in Macao, Guangzhou and Honolulu. After becoming interested in politics, he established the Revive China Society.
Spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk reports in 1895 Sun Yat-sen took part at Guangzhou in his first uprising, which ended poorly for him. “Forced into exile he lived in United States. While in London he was kidnapped and imprisoned in the Chinese legation. In danger of being executed the British Foreign Office got involved and obtained his release. The Qing dynasty was finally overthrown in the Chinese Revolution of 1911.”
The site said Sun Yat-sen briefly became president and with Song Jiaoren established he (National People’s Party). “When the party was suppressed in 1913 by General Yuan Shikai, Sun Yat-sen escaped to Japan. Sun Yat-sen returned to Guangzhou and with the the help of advisers from the Soviet Union the Kuomintang gradually increased its power in China. In 1924, it adopted the “Three Principles of the People” (nationalism, democracy and social reform). He also established the Whampoa Military Academy under Chiang Kai-Shek.”
Berg’s office manager Eric Ryan commented on the “high level of irony” because of the close proximity of the resolutions: “First the council members were circling the wagons around a Chinese dictator and then in the next minute, they are holding up shining lights of democracy by honoring Sun Yat-sen. It was like being in an alternative universe.”