During today’s White House Press Briefing, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany referenced the “Armenian Genocide memorial” in Colorado that was vandalized in May during racial justice protests as an example of what happens when people who “lack a basic understanding or historical knowledge” tear down statues and monuments.
On its surface, the Press Secretary’s remarks appear to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. However, the Press Secretary does not make policy so it will be interesting to see what happens next.
On April 24, 2020, President Trump again issued an Armenian Remembrance Day statement that dodged the G word, as he has done since taking office. President Ronald Reagan was the last U.S. President to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
One can expect that the White House Press Secretary will walk-back her remarks later today or tomorrow and that Turkey’s President Recep Tayip Erdogan or the Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. will call President Trump and demand a clarification of policy, as has been done in the past. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Will President Trump use this opportunity to acknowledge and not deny the Armenian Genocide, or will he once again bend the knee to Erdogan?
South Florida Congresswoman Donna Shalala (D-FL) joined 50 of her Congressional colleagues to issue a statement on April 24th, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
“Over 100 years ago, my grandparents fled the Ottoman Empire to escape the #ArmenianGenocide”, she posted on Twitter.
Shalala was the only Florida Representative to issue a statement this year. She was also an outspoken supporter of the Armenian Genocide recognition resolution and spoke on the floor of the House during the debate when it passed on October 29, 2019 for the first time in U.S. history.
Armenians around the world commemorate the World War I-era mass killings of 1.5 million of their kin every year on April 24th, when in 1915 the Ottoman Turkish government rounded up and murdered over 200 Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople (Istanbul) marking the beginning of the Armenian Genocide.
By Taniel Koushakjian
On April 24, 2020 President Donald J. Trump issued the official White House statement on Armenian Genocide remembrance day “memorializing the lives lost during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century. Beginning in 1915, 1 and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. On this day of remembrance, we pay respect to those who suffered and lost their lives, while also renewing our commitment to fostering a more humane and peaceful world,” the White House statement read.
Hours after President Trump’s statement, former Vice President Joe Biden issued his April 24 statement. Like Trump, and Obama before him, Biden invoked the phrase Meds Yeghern which what Armenians call the Armenian Genocide. However, Biden’s statement went all the way, using the Armenian and English versions.
“Today we remember the atrocities faced by the Armenian people in the Metz Yeghern — the Armenian Genocide,” Biden said. “From 1915 to 1923, almost 2 million Armenians were deported en mass, and 1.5 million men, women, and children were killed. Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians were also targeted. We must never forget or remain silent about this horrific and systematic campaign of extermination. And we will forever respect the perseverance of the Armenian people in the wake of such tragedy,” the former Vice President said.
Biden served as Vice President to President Barack Obama from 2008-2016. Biden and Obama pledged to recognize the Armenian Genocide as President once they reached the White House in 2008. However, the Obama-Biden Administration broke it’s promise to the Armenian American community and stopped short of using the “g” word.
Biden’s statement today seems to be the only step left for the Democratic Party to win over Armenian American voters, in terms of a campaign pledge and an actual policy correction in the Executive Brach of the U.S. government.
Campaigning for President in 2016, Donald Trump did not issue a campaign statement to the Armenian American community. Since taking office, the Trump White House has continued to refer to the Ottoman Turkish murder of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 as “mass atrocities” but has stoped short of applying the proper legal name for what historians overwhelming acknowledge as the first genocide of the 20th century.