Northern California Congressman, a Holocaust Survivor, Has Taken a Leading Role in Denying the First Genocide of the 20th Century

May 21, 2002

LOS ANGELES, CA – Representatives of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), in meetings in Washington, DC and in his northern California District Office, have challenged Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA) to abandon his policy of Armenian Genocide denial.

The meeting in northern California took place at the Congressman’s San Mateo office and included his human rights aide Margery Farrar and the Congressman’s constituent Haig Baghdassarian, who serves as a member of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, as well as ANCA-Western U.S. Government Relations Director Ardashes Kassakhian. On April 18th, Baghdassarian, a longtime member of the San Francisco ANC, met again with a Lantos aide, this time in Washington, DC. At that meeting he conferred with the Congressman’s Senior Policy Advisor Dr. Kay King. Dr. King explained that Rep. Lantos’ opposition to Congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide was based on national security grounds. The aide went on to suggest the Representative might be supportive of creating a historical commission to examine the Armenian issue to sort out what he described as ambiguity surrounding the events of 1915.

Lantos took a leading role in the 106th Congress in attempting to block passage of legislation recognizing the Armenian Genocide. As a senior member of the House International Relations Committee, which had jurisdiction over the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.R. 596), Lantos worked feverishly to strike all mention of the word genocide from the legislation. Despite his best efforts, Lantos failed to secure passage of an amendment that would have struck the word genocide from the bill.

“It is most unfortunate that Tom Lantos has stained his distinguished legislative career by actively working to deny the Armenian Genocide,” commented ANC Government Affairs Director Ardashes Kassakhian.

“The denial of the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide is wrong,” Haig Baghdassarian explained. “For Rep. Lantos, my Congressman, to suggest that his denial of the Armenian Genocide is based on national security is, quite simply, immoral. Does Tom Lantos really want to live in a world where genocides and holocausts are only recognized when doing so does not disturb what he or others define as U.S. national interests?” Baghdassarian added.

In a letter hand-delivered to an aide of Representative Lantos in early March of this year the ANC wrote:

“The Armenian-American community of California’s 12th Congressional District, throughout California, and nationwide is mindful of the destructive role you and your staff played in seeking to defeat H.Res. 596, legislation concerning the Armenian Genocide, which was considered and passed by the House International Relations Committee during the 106th Congress. Your role in seeking to defeat this legislation runs contrary to your otherwise distinguished career in the U.S. House of Representatives.

We are particularly concerned that you inferred that the Armenian Genocide resolution should be defeated for fear that America’s ally, the Republic of Turkey, would be offended. Specifically, during committee consideration of the bill you remarked, “This legislation at this moment in U.S.-Turkish relations is singularly counterproductive to our national interest.” Is this your litmus test for acknowledging crimes against humanity?

We are also concerned that there may be other reasons – which you did not state – for your opposition to U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Some have suggested that your newfound denial of the Armenian Genocide may be unrelated to our country, but of concern to a third party. We would appreciate a full and open explanation of your new position concerning the Armenian Genocide.”

To date the ANCA-WR has received no reply to this letter.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Naiery Misserlian
Email / Tel: (818) 500-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
Western Region
104 N. Belmont, Suite 200, Glendale, CA 91206 * Tel. (818) 500-1918
Your generosity empowers our advocacy, inspires our work, and sustains our momentum.