Vietnamese Newspaper Retracts False Quote Attributed to Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen

It was a simpler time
It was a simpler time
Photo by John Gilhooley

The Vien Dong Daily News, one of the largest Vietnamese newspapers printed in the United States, issued a correction last Friday after not just misquoting Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen, but making up a quote wholesale.

During a city council meeting last week, Nguyen pushed against Garden Grove's sending a letter to Riverside advising against Riverside's sister city relationship with Can Tho, a Vietnamese city in the Mekong Delta, citing his belief that Garden Grove needed to focus on its own issues. The council eventually voted to send a letter, with Councilmembers Chris Phan, Kris Beard, and Phat Bui choosing to sign.

In their original article, published February 11, Vien Dong reported that Nguyen said "It's been 40 years, why is the Vietnamese community still angry?", prompting an outcry of anti-Communist fervor from its readers and across Little Saigon that has the new mayor in hot water and Republicans dreaming recall. Never mind that Nguyen never even said the phrase "40 years" that night, or anything remotely close to that during the meeting.

In its correction, Vien Dong admitted that he effectively said the opposite.

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"In a story published yesterday in the Vien Dong Daily News, Mayor Bao Nguyen was quoted saying 'It's been 40 years, why is the Vietnamese community still angry?" reads Vien Dong's apology in Vietnamese, "...Mayor Nguyen Did NOT make this statement."

Also missing from the original article were Nguyen's other comments, including his saying that he understood the pain and trauma that the Vietnamese people went through, and that he was born from it, but that the city had bigger issues to deal with (such as an Orange County District Attorney's investigation regarding former Fire Chief David Barlag).

According to the statement issued by the paper, the misquote grew from a misunderstanding by the reporter and several other people in the room due to Nguyen's academic way of speaking. No, seriously: The paper says Nguyen's English speaks too smart in English, and that it asked other people present during the City Council meeting to try and translate that English for them--seemingly everyone except Nguyen, who was never asked for comment.

"I have reviewed the video of the meeting and concur that my reporter has erred. I apologize for the mistake and for listening to others who were at the same meeting," Vien Dong Editor Nhuan Tong wrote in an email to Nguyen aquired by the Weekly. "I will retract the article and print/post a correction ASAP. Thank you for bringing this to my attention." She did not reply to a request for comment by the Weekly.

Ideologically driven misquotes, of course, are nothing new in the Little Saigon media world; late last year, an Orange County jury awarded Nguoi Viet a $4.5 million judgment in a defamation case against rival Saigon Nho, after Saigon Nho's editor published a column claiming Nguoi Viet was secretly run by the Vietnamese communist government. In addition to the Nguoi Viet verdict, the Washington State Supreme Court reinstated a $310,000 verdict in 2013 in a case where a man was called an agent of the Viet Cong in community newsletters and online postings.

After the jump are Nguyen's actual comments. Anyone hear a 40 in there?:  

As of Monday morning, the original article has been completely removed from Vien Dong's website, and no dispatch from the city council meeting is available. Below is a roughly translated text (by someone whose Vietnamese is much better than mine) of the original fabricated quote:

At 9:20, the mayor and the council convene the meeting to continue to listen to council members Steve Jones and Chris Beard. Mayor Bao Nguyen dismissed the idea of signing the letter and said, "This City does not need to intervene with the matters of another City. Garden Grove should only concern ourselves about the internal affairs of our city. It's been 40 years, why is there still grudge/hatred within the Vietnamese community? It's wrong to assume Riverside is pro-communist by having a relationship with Can Tho."

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