White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary McEnany’s Brief Mention of Armenian Genocide Receives Mainstream Media Coverage (Video Clip)

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WASHINGTON – White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on July 6 used the term Armenian Genocide in passing while discussing the desecration of memorials by protestors in the US. She related President Donald Trump’s position on “extreme indoctrination and bias” in the educational system and referred to the Denver Armenian khachkar monument dedicated to the victims of the Armenian and other genocides which had been defaced in late May during the course of the Black Lives Matter protests. She stated, “There seems to be a lack of understanding and historical knowledge when the Armenian Genocide Memorial, remembering victims of all crimes against humanity including slavery, is vandalized.”

Despite the increase in US-Turkish tension in recent years, President Trump and the State Department have studiously avoided using the term Armenian Genocide up until the present, which makes the motivation behind this statement curious.

John Haltiwanger, a senior political reporter for Business Insider, sought reactions from both State Department and the White House, and the Embassy of Turkey to Washington, D.C. Haltiwanger tweeted that State Department referred him to the White House, which in turn did not respond to his inquiry, while the Embassy of Turkey in Washington, D.C. called MacEnany’s statement “an unfortunate slip of the tongue” and concluded “In any case, these expressions cannot be accepted.”

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In his July 6 article in the Business Insider, Haltiwanger wrote: “The Turkish Embassy falsely stated the ‘allegations on the events of 1915 … do not rest on any legal or historical facts.’ Advocates for Armenian Americans, however, hailed the White House press secretary’s statement.”

The well-known reporter quoted Bryan Ardouny, the executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, declaring “”We appreciate that the Administration has taken note that the Armenian Genocide memorial in Denver was vandalized and of the need for a better understanding of historical knowledge,” and the Armenian National Committee of America’s comment that McEnany’s statement “could mark the first steps toward “all-of-government recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the US.”

Haltiwanger recalled last year’s full recognition of the Armenian Genocide by both chambers of the US Congress. In that context, he related the Armenian community’s active supporter Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) comments. “We cannot pick and choose which crimes against humanity are convenient to speak about. We cannot cloak our support for human rights in euphemisms. We cannot be cowed into silence by a foreign power,” Schiff had said. The history of the term “genocide” is intrinsically linked to the atrocities committed against the Armenians, he continued.

Trump’s statement on Armenian Remembrance Day this year called it the “Meds Yeghern” instead of using the English word genocide. Last year it referenced Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish origin who coined the term “genocide” while again avoiding directly calling it a genocide.

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake opined about McEnany’s statement that “President Trump’s close ally, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, may not be happy about this one. After decades of the United States government declining to acknowledge the Armenian genocide because it would alienate Turkey, the White House on Monday invoked the term — albeit indirectly.”

Evaluating U.S.-Turkish relations in the context of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide Blake noted that: “The use of the actual word by McEnany is particularly striking from the Trump administration, though, given that Trump has carved out an especially close relationship with Erdogan. Among other things, Trump withdrew troops from northern Syria, which detractors, including many Republicans, argued allowed Erdogan to slaughter the U.S.-allied Kurds in the region.”

Blake suggested that “The White House will surely argue that McEnany was simply referring to a memorial by its actual name, but even using that name has been a no-go for many years inside the White House.”

On July 8, the White House responded to an inquiry from the Armenian American newspaper Asbarez that its position on the Armenian Genocide “remains unchanged.”

It is difficult for the public to ascertain whether this mention was part of an attempt to pressure Turkey for concessions on some other issue, or to garner Armenian votes in the upcoming November elections by telegraphing some degree of support on the genocide issue.

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