Thirty US Representatives Urge PBS Not to Provide Platform for Armenian Genocide Deniers

WASHINGTON–DC–Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) was joined by Representative George Radanovich (R-CA)–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)–and a bipartisan group of twenty-six US Representatives in urging the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) not to provide a broadcast platform for deniers of the Armenian genocide–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

In an April 3 letter–addressed to PBS Chief Operating Officer Wayne Godwin–the House Members addressed the growing controversy surrounding plans by PBS to broadcast a panel discussion including known Armenian genocide deniers Justin McCarthy and Omer Turan following the airing this April of the documentary "The Armenian Genocide," produced by Andrew Goldberg. The ANCA has formally protested PBS’s decision–and established an online WebFax program through which close to 10,000 individuals have already registered their protests.

In their letter–the group of legislators urged that–"PBS not provide a national platform to those who deny the Armenian genocide… Despite the Turkish government’s concerted and well-financed effort to obscure and alter history–there is no serious academic dispute about the Armenian genocide." The letter closed by noting that–"Surely–PBS would not consider broadcasting a documentary on the Holocaust–followed by a panel that included Holocaust deniers. A commitment to balance does not mandate the inclusion of opinions that are objectively false."

"We want to thank Representatives Schiff–Radanovich–Pallone–and Knollenberg for their leadership in giving voice to the growing Congressional opposition to PBS’s deeply flawed decision to provide public airtime to deniers of the Armenian genocide," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "Clearly their concerns are being heard–as more and more PBS affiliates are deciding not to run this panel discussion."

The full list of signatories is as follows: Gary Ackerman (D-NY)–Shelley Berkley (D-NV)–Jerry Costello (D-IL)–Anna Eshoo (D-CA)–Bob Filner (D-CA)–Scott Garrett (R-NJ)–Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)–Rush Holt (D-NJ)–Steve Israel (D-NY)–Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)–Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)–Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)–James McGovern (D-MA)–Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)–Michael McNulty (D-NY)–Richard Neal (D-MA)–C. L. Butch Otter (R-ID)–Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–Donald Payne (D-NJ)–Collin Peterson (D-MN)–George Radanovich (R-CA)–Steven Rothman (D-NJ)–Adam Schiff (D-CA)–Joe Schwarz (R-MI)–Brad Sherman (D-CA)–Mark Souder (R-IN)–John Sweeney (R-NY)–Edolphus Towns (D-NY)–Diane Watson (D-CA)–and Anthony Weiner (D-NY).

In addition to the signatories of this letter–a number of other legislators undertook individual efforts directly with PBS. Among these were Senator Boxer (D-CA)–who shared her concerns with San Francisco’s KQED–which recently decided not to air the denial panel. Senator John Ensign (D-CA)–the author of the Senate version of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (SR 320)–similarly urged Las Vegas PBS affiliate KLVX not to air the panel–stressing that–"to air this or any other denial would only serve to condone [the Turkish government’s] denial and to ignore the reality of those atrocious acts that were responsible for the loss of one and half million lives and for more than half a million survivors being exiled."

On the House side–individual letters were sent by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and James Langevin (D-RI). In her letter–Representative Lofgren expressed hope that "PBS will evaluate this planned programming using the same standard it would employ if deniers were discussing either [the Armenian or Jewish] Holocaust." Representative Langevin noted that–"I imagine that those who deny the existence of the Holocaust would not be offered the same chance to air their views–and I question why the Armenian genocide appears to be held to a different standard."

On April 4–Representative Schiff hosted a Capitol Hill screening of the PBS documentary–"The Armenian Genocide," to a standing-room only audience of Members of Congress–Congressional staffers–members of the media–and Armenian American community activists. Representative Schiff was joined by Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Representative Pallone in offering remarks at the opening of the documentary–while director Andrew Goldberg led an insightful question and answer session at the conclusion of the piece. Among those in attendance were His Excellency Tatoul Markarian–Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the US accompanied by Embassy staff–as well as former US Ambassador to Armenia Michael Lemmon–and Pulitzer Prize winning author Samantha Power.

On March 29–Representative Pallone delivered a House floor speech urging PBS not to air the panel discussion–arguing that he "would not feel any different about this issue if we were discussing Darfur–Rwanda or the Nazi Holocaust. Genocide deniers should not have a forum. The quest for fair and balanced information does not give a license to propagate false–misleading–and offensive information about historical facts that relate to genocide."

The Washington Post reported on February 16th that–"Thousands of Armenian Americans are protesting the Public Broadcasting Service’s planned panel-discussion program about Turkey’s role in the deaths of Armenia’s during and after World War I. The 25-minute program has generated an outcry because the panel will include two scholars who deny that 1.5 million Armenian civilians were killed in eastern Turkey from 1915 to 1920."

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