Rep. Harley Rouda’s calls to end systemic racism in the United States, and his aggressive push to court veterans and Orange County’s Vietnamese community might appear disingenuous after photos surfaced of Rouda’s college fraternity hosting “Mekong Delta” parties during Rouda’s time in the Delta Tau Delta fraternity at the University of Kentucky.
Rouda (D-48) has represented’s California’s 48th Congressional District since 2018.
The Delta Tau Delta fraternity party “Mekong Delta” refers to the Mekong River Delta, over 15,000 square miles in Southwestern Vietnam where towns were ravaged and hundreds of thousands died during the Vietnam War.
The photos shown below were all taken during the University of Kentucky’s Delta Tau Delta’s Mekong Delta parties held between 1980-1984, and were found on the alumni chapter Facebook page.
These parties were not specific to the University of Kentucky Delta Tau Delta chapter, and were an annual event at Delta Tau Delta chapters across the country.
Several letters to the editor were written by students and veterans during Rouda’s time in the University of Kentucky’s Delta Tau Delta chapter, slamming the fraternity as ignorant and crass not only toward Vietnamese immigrants but also toward U.S. veterans who fought in Vietnam.
One letter to the editor from 1983 in the University of Kentucky’s school newspaper, Kentucky Kernel, describes the Mekong Delta parties as ironic since it “does not escape us that students on college campuses, and fraternity and sorority members by extension sat out the war on deferments leaving the actual fighting to blacks, Hispanics and whites with neither money nor connections. We are thus not surprised that these same kind of people now celebrate a human slaughter with a beer blast.”
Another letter to the editor in the Kentucky Kernel from 1983 written by a U.S. Navy veteran criticizing the frat party suggests, a “Dachau or Auschwitz party” might be more appropriate “for the coming social season.” He goes on to say, “Perhaps the Delta Tau Delta group would consider channeling their party energy into throwing a benefit…to aid Indochina refugees in this country who are struggling to forget all that occurred in the Mekong Delta.”
Rouda graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1984. On January 5, 2018, the University of Kentucky Delta Tau Delta alumni chapter congratulated Rouda on being sworn into office.
In 2019, Rouda released a statement in recognition of Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.
“I am proud to join the Vietnamese-Americans of Orange County as they celebrate Tết, and welcome the Year of the Pig. The community of Vietnamese heritage has enriched our whole community, and the 48th district would be unrecognizable without their contributions. In the spirit of the Year of the Pig, I wish our community prosperity and good fortune.
“For some in our community, that wish is often elusive. Let us take this year as an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment in service to one another to work toward the health and happiness of all our community members.”
Rouda has referred to President Trump and other Trump administration officials as “ignorant” about race issues in the United States.
Rouda has also criticized President Trump for referring to COVID19 as the “China Virus,” and is currently running TV ads in Vietnamese targeting Orange County’s Vietnamese community.
The ads partially say, “There is a sickness called hate” and “at the same opposing racism.” Some say the Vietnamese TV ads have had the opposite of their intended effect in the Vietnamese community because some words were mispronounced.
According to the 2010 census — the most recent statistics available — there are more than 200,000 Vietnamese living in Orange County.
California Globe contacted Rouda’s campaign to give him an opportunity to weigh in. We asked why Rouda has not commented publicly on his attendance at the University of Kentucky’s Delta Tau Delta Mekong parties, or if he regrets participating.
We did not receive a response from Rouda or his campaign staff.
More letters to the editor in the Kentucky Kernel about the University of Kentucky’s Delta Tau Delta’s “Mekong Delta” parties can be viewed below.