NBC Profiles Vietnamese Republican Who Beat Corrupt Dem Rep Jefferson in New Orleans

On Tuesday’s NBC Nightly News, correspondent Ron Mott filed a report featuring incoming Republican Congressman Joseph Cao, the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress, and the man who defeated corrupt former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson in heavily Democratic New Orleans. Brian Williams introduced Mott’s piece: "There was new ground broken on Capitol Hill today, where the first Vietnamese-American Congressman in the history of this republic was sworn in. Joseph Cao of Louisiana is also the first Republican in more than a century to win the seat representing New Orleans."

Mott recounted Cao’s escape from Vietnam and his victory against Jefferson, who was involved in a bribery scandal: "The 41-year-old Republican Congressman, Joseph Cao, is now a standout on Capitol Hill, traveling a very long way to get there. As a boy, he was among tens of thousands airlifted out of Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, without his parents, who feared he was killed at the airport. ... He later studied for the priesthood, eventually became a lawyer, and then last year, took on a political institution in New Orleans, Democrat William Jefferson, embroiled in a bribery scandal."

Below is a complete transcript of the story from the Tuesday, January 6, NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: There was new ground broken on Capitol Hill today, where the first Vietnamese-American Congressman in the history of this republic was sworn in. Joseph Cao of Louisiana is also the first Republican in more than a century to win the seat representing New Orleans. NBC's Ron Mott has more on this extraordinary journey.

RON MOTT: At 5'2", he can be hard to spot in a crowd.

REP. JOSEPH CAO (R-LA), ADDRESSING A CROWD: The people of the second district have spoken.

MOTT: The 41-year-old Republican Congressman, Joseph Cao, is now a standout on Capitol Hill, traveling a very long way to get there. As a boy, he was among tens of thousands airlifted out of Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, without his parents, who feared he was killed at the airport.

CAO: They found out later that we were still alive, so when they came over in 1991, it was a very momentous moment for our family.

MOTT: He later studied for the priesthood, eventually became a lawyer, and then last year, took on a political institution in New Orleans, Democrat William Jefferson, embroiled in a bribery scandal.

CAO: When I first qualified, I didn't think that I really had a chance. I told my wife, I said, "Honey, I qualified to run for congress." And she looked at me, she said, "You must be crazy."

SILAS LEE, POLITICAL ANALYST: A perfect storm of unknown factors.

MOTT: Some political analysts, though, didn't find it crazy at all, especially with Hurricane Gustav pushing the election back a month, reducing voter turnout.

LEE: So the disparity in resources, Gustav, voter confusion, all came together and created a perfect opportunity for a newcomer to defeat a nine-term sitting Congressman.

MOTT: There was near-unanimous support for Cao in the Vietnamese community of New Orleans, but even here, there was plenty of skepticism about his chances against such a political heavyweight. That skepticism was shattered the night he won. Cao's pastor said his parishioner goes to Washington carrying the high hopes of many.

FATHER VIEN NGUYEN, MARY QUEEN OF VIETNAM CHURCH: All of the Vietnamese-Americans in this country, more than a million of them, are rooting for him.

MOTT: Yet some question whether Cao is a one-term wonder.

CAO: I hope that in two years, that they will see the things that I have done and that the people will vote me back into office.

MOTT: A tall order perhaps, though he says he’s up to the task. Ron Mott, NBC News, New Orleans.