In a statement made by White House Press Secretary Kaleigh McEnany on Monday, July 6, the Trump administration appeared to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, albeit indirectly.
The reference was made in regard to the Armenian Genocide Memorial, which had been vandalized several weeks earlier during protests in Denver, Colorado. As more rioters have continued to desecrate memorials across the country, McEnany cited the genocide by name.
Within her statement, the press secretary said, “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,” in response to the violence.
Press Secretary McEnany had meant to call out the protesters’ apparent disregard for history; however, the statement appeared to cross into the politically-fraught territory of using the name of the genocide itself.
During today’s the @WhiteHouse Press Conference, while explaining the need for better historical understanding given that historical monuments are being vandalized across the US, Press Secretary @PressSec, invoked the desecration of the Armenian Genocide memorial in Denver, CO. pic.twitter.com/Ob7Ir1C3tb
— Armenian Assembly (@ARAMAC_DC) July 6, 2020
The Armenian Genocide was the systematic mass murder of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians conducted by the Ottoman Empire from 1914 to 1923.
The current administration and its predecessors have repeatedly declined acknowledging the genocide due to the US having an important strategic alliance with Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
During the Obama administration, the former president pledged to recognize the Armenian Genocide, but he did not follow up on the promise during his eight years in office. Similarly, President Trump has followed the same pattern, and even shunned a congressional attempt to press the issue.
After bills to symbolically recognize the genocide were passed in both chambers of Congress last year, Trump declined to sign the legislation, arguing that the measure was not US policy.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham also momentarily blocked a vote on the measure in the Senate, due to the fact that Erdogan was visiting the country at the time, stating “That would’ve been poor timing. I’m trying to salvage the relationship, if possible.”
While the White House might argue that press secretary McEnany was simply referring to the memorial by its actual name, the reference is still significant since President Trump has carved out a close relationship with the Turkish President.
The Trump administration had previously addressed what it termed the “atrocities” against the Armenian people during Armenian Remembrance Day this year, which falls on April 24.
That statement contained the sentence: “Today, we join the global community in memorializing the lives lost during the ‘Meds Yeghern,’ one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.” Meds Yeghern is an Armenian phrase meaning “the great crime.”
In light of the recent statement from the Press Secretary, Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny said “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. This monument, dedicated on the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, commemorates the victims of all crimes against humanity.”