SAN DIEGO—Genocide denier and co-founder of the progressive Internet talk radio show, The Young Turks, Cenk Uyger was greeted by a group of protesters during his recent appearance at the California State Democratic Party convention. The event was the Progressive Caucus’ scheduled meeting and panel discussion held at the convention in San Diego under the auspices of the California Democratic Party.
Prior to the demonstration, the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region and the Southern California Armenian Democrats had lodged complaints with the California Democratic Party for providing a platform to known Genocide denier. Caro Avanessian of the California Armenian American Democrats also wrote a formal letter expressing the concerns of the statewide charter organizations with the speaker.
Torie Osborne, a candidate for CA State Assembly 50th district (Santa Monica), removed herself from the panel of speakers due to the efforts of Southern California Armenian Democrats (SCAD) and the ANCA-WR. Her voluntary removal increased the pressure on the Progressive Caucus to cancel Uygur’s appearance.
Issues were raised by Armenian and Greek delegates to the party with the name of Uygur’s program which referenced the Young Turks – the popular name of the Committee of Union and Progress which was the political party led by the orchestrators of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 – 1923. Concerns were also expressed about an article that Mr. Uygur wrote while a student at the University of Pennsylvania in which he made the following statement:
“The claims of an Armenian Genocide are not based on historical facts. If the history of the period is examined it becomes evident that in fact no such genocide took place.”
The chair of the Progressive Caucus reaffirmed her organization’s support of the Congressional resolutions on the Armenian Genocide but refused to cancel the speaking engagement of Cenk Uygur, which led to the collective demonstration at the Progressive Caucus meeting. Members of Southern CA Armenian Democrats (SCAD), ANCA, CA Armenian American Democrats Organization (CAAD), Armenian Council of America (ACA) and San Gabriel Valley Armenian Democrats (SGVAD) passed out literature on Uygur’s record of denial.
Uygur opened his prepared remarks with comments indicating he had no harmful intent when selecting the name of his program – the Young Turks. He further stated that he does not hate Armenians. His co-host on the program is an Armenian, Ana Kasparian.
His refusal to directly address his previous comments led to the peaceful demonstration by the Armenian-American groups with some walking out on the speaker while a large contingent turned their backs to the speaker for the duration of his comments.
Many officials expressed their support for the demonstration, including Assemblymembers Chuck Calderon (D-Montebello) and Congresswoman Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro).