In Little Saigon, politics can get personal.
Example: Rose Bui, the wife of National Assembly candidate Ted Bui, filed a defamation lawsuit against Trust Media Network, a Vietnamese-language YouTube show hosted by activists Ky Ngo and Nam Quan Nguyen.
The lawsuit, filed May 3 in Orange County Superior Court, alleges that Trust Media maliciously and mistakenly reported that Rose Bui’s father was a high-ranking member of the military in communist Vietnam. .
The allegation could have political implications. Fountain Valley councilman Rose Bui’s husband Ted Bui is one of five candidates vying to represent the 70th Assembly District, and any connection to communism can be politically devastating in Little Saigon, where many older Vietnamese-American voters fled communist persecution before arriving in the United States.
One of Bui’s opponents in the AD-70 race is Westminster Mayor Tri Ta. Two years ago, Ta backed Trust Media’s Nguyen in Nguyen’s unsuccessful run for a Westminster council seat. Recently, Ta has been a regular on Trust Media talk shows, where Nguyen and co-host Ngo have voiced their support for him.
Rose Bui’s lawsuit says that in mid-February, Nguyen and Ngo falsely claimed that Bui was “the daughter of a communist regime commander.”
According to the lawsuit, “Bloggers posted multiple photos of an older man wearing a communist uniform,” misidentifying him as Bui’s father.
In fact, the claim states that Rose Bui’s father was a civil engineer who “never participated in the military.”
Rancho Santa Fe attorney Hoyt Hart, who represents Bui, said the “communist” label can be a powerful tactic in the Little Saigon community.
“If you want to convict someone, you play the ‘C’ card,” Hart said. “That’s why it’s thrown around so freely.”
Rose Bui, herself a lawyer, declined to comment for this story.
In a phone interview, Trust Media’s Nguyen said he had not yet seen the trial but was sticking to his show’s reporting, which was based on an unnamed source.
“A reliable source sent us this information,” Nguyen said.
It is unclear whether Nguyen, Ngo or anyone at Trust Media attempted to confirm the allegation or contact Rose Bui for comment before the story aired.
“So far, we think it’s true,” Nguyen said. “But Ms Bui has the right to do whatever she wants about it. It’s the United States. We will take this to court.
The talk show made other allegations about the two Buis.
“The defendants further claimed that during the 2022 Tet parade, Rose (Bui) and several friends all wore red with yellow hats, just like the flag of the communist regime, and danced and played communist music. all along Bolsa Avenue,” the lawsuit reads. “The statements are false. Rose wore a red dress, symbolic of the Lunar New Year. The music played was Vietnamese pop.
On the same talk show, Ngo and Nguyen said Ted Bui’s relatives “were all communists,” according to the complaint.
Ted Bui declined to intervene. “My wife is a tough lawyer and this is a matter she will have to deal with,” he wrote in an email.
Hart, Rose Bui’s lawyer, said accusations of communist sympathies in Little Saigon can “put people in physical danger”.
“It basically affects (Bui’s) reputation and makes her dangerous,” Hart said. “I’ve had customers shoved in public, rocks thrown through their windows.”
Hart has handled several cases involving threats and protests stemming from people labeled as communists or communist sympathizers, and the lawsuit filed by Rose Bui is not Hart’s first conflict with Ngo.
Almost 15 years ago, Hart represented Nguoi Viet, Vietnam’s largest daily newspaper published outside Vietnam, after Ngo led raucous protests outside the newspaper’s office in Westminster that lasted for months. The newspaper had published a photo of a pedicure sink decorated in red and yellow, colors which also represent the flag of communist Vietnam.
In 2009, a jury found Ngo and two other organizers liable for trespassing and nuisance.
JTrust Media’s 90 minute show that prompted Bui’s lawsuit include other charges directed at local politicians – some of the charges bordering on the fantastical.
For example, Ngo and Nguyen claimed that Westminster Council members Kimberly Ho and Carlos Manzo wanted to shut down a Buddhist temple and imprison its abbot. Ngo claimed Ho planned to “build a Mormon temple or brothel” on the site.
The report also claims that Manzo is so “jealous and racist” that he scratched Ta’s “mayor” title from a statue of Vietnamese hero General Tran Hung Dao.
While serving on Westminster City Council together, Ho, Manzo and Councilor Tai Do teamed up to vote against some of Ta’s favorite projects, including a recent proposal to redevelop City Hall.
In March, the three council members approved a resolution, authored by Do, that condemns Vietnamese-language media that promote “fake news.”
“I am so happy that Ms. Bui came forward to debunk the fake news that shamed her father,” Do said. “It needs courage.”
The lawsuit says any damages sought by Rose Bui from Trust Media are “to be determined at trial.”