Though it's been nearly 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War, the most pejorative label anyone can hurl in Orange County's Little Saigon remains "communist," a term that, if wrongly used, can also result in economic pain.
The folks at Saigon Ngo weekly newspaper likely understand that point this week after a jury ordered them to pay $4.5 million in damages to Nguoi Viet Daily News officials they'd accused in a July 2012, column of working as secret agents for Vietnam's communist regime and living sexually promiscuous lifestyles.
After failing to win a retraction, Nguoi Viet's Dat Huy Pham and Vinh Hoang responded to the column by filing a Sept. 2012, lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court.
They noted in their complaint that the false accusations subjected them to "feelings of hatred, contempt [and] ridicule" as well potential violence in a place where just a picture of communist icon Ho Chi Minh can incite rage.
South Vietnamese refugee Yen Ngoc Do, who passed in 2006, founded Nguoi Viet in 1978 and built the publication into the most successful Vietnamese daily in the nation.
Saigon Nho, which was created in 1985 and strives to keep anti-communist sentiments heated especially among older generations of Vietnamese refugees, is published by Hoang Duc Thao, the author of the column that sparked the lawsuit.
During closing arguments for the four-week trial, Hoyt Hart, Nguoi Viet's attorney, urged jurors to consider whether it is an acceptable, legal practice for a business to try to harm a competitor by "spreading untrue rumors."
There's been no announcement if Saigon Nho officials will appeal the verdict and damages to the California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana.