Sen. Menendez Presses Armenia Ambassador Nominee On Genocide

Sen. Menendez during Wednesday's hearing

WASHINGTON—New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez Wednesday pressed aggressively for answers from the Obama Administration over its refusal to properly characterize the Armenian Genocide and, more specifically, regarding how forcing U.S. diplomats into such a “totally untenable” position on this human rights issue materially harms both U.S. interests and America’s moral standing, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

The Senator’s powerful remarks and sharp inquiries came during his questioning at a hearing of the Foreign Relations Committee to consider the confirmation of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia nominee John Heffern.  Mr. Heffern cited the killing of the over 1.5 million Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire, but stopped short of properly referencing the crime as ‘genocide,’ arguing that “the characterization of those events is a policy decision that is made by the President of the United States and that policy is enunciated in his April 24 Remembrance Day statement.”

Senator Menendez remarked “This is an inartful dance that we do.  We have a State Department whose history is full of dispatches that cite the atrocities committed during this time.  We have a convention that we sign on to as a signatory that clearly defines these acts as genocide.  We have a historical knowledge of the facts that we accept would amount to genocide.  But we are unwilling to reference it as genocide.  And if we cannot accept the past, we cannot move forward.  And so I find it very difficult to send diplomats of the United States to a country in which they will go – and I hope you will go, as some of your predecessors have – to a genocide commemoration and yet never be able to use the word genocide.  It is much more than a question of a word. It is everything that signifies our commitment to saying ‘never again.’  And yet, we can’t even acknowledge this fact and we put diplomats in a position that is totally untenable.”

Senator Menendez’s exchange with Heffern is posted on the ANCA website.

“Once again, Senator Menendez has powerfully presented – for the White House, his Senate colleagues, and the American people – the mounting moral and material consequences of failing to forthrightly acknowledge the Armenian Genocide,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  “We remain troubled that the Administration’s failure to speak truthfully and without equivocation about this crime only serves to undermine U.S. moral standing in the cause of genocide prevention, and, as today’s testimony so clearly illustrated, hinders our nation’s interests in, and any future ambassador’s ability to fully realize the potential of the U.S-Armenia relationship.”

Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-NH), who chaired the confirmation hearing, was joined by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) in asking  Mr. Heffern a series of questions on democracy building efforts in Armenia. Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) recounted the difficulties Armenian artists have had in receiving visas to perform  in an international dance festival in Idaho and asked the nominee for help should they be refused entry to participate in the festival again next year.  The ANCA had recently submitted an inquiry to the State Department about similar obstacles to the participation of  Armenian child artists to obtain visas to attend an international children’s festival in Washington, DC, held last month.

The complete video of Mr. Heffern’s confirmation hearing as well as his prepared testimony before the committee are available on the ANCA website at the links below.

Senators are expected to submit follow up questions to Mr. Heffern in the upcoming days.  The ANCA and Armenian American community will join Senators in carefully reviewing his responses.


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  1. Robert Kachadourian, Ph.D. said:

    Bravo to Sen. Menendez. In the end, it’s hoped that the truth will prevail. So far it i.e., the truth is also a victim in all of the machinations. May it not be so. For if truth is the last victim in this search for veracity, all of humanity will be the collective victim in this disgusting episode!!!

  2. zareh said:

    Armenians should stop wasting their hard earned money on U.S. politicians instead they should use every cent to create jobs in Armenia. Who cares if the United States government recognized the genocide. By the time they recognize there won’t be any Armenian left in Armenia. I say no more money to American politicians and more money into creating well paid jobs in the homeland.

  3. David Boyajian said:

    What is needed is a serious, well-argued movement by our alleged “friends” in Congress and elsewhere for the US to recognize Artsakh/Karabagh as an independent state.

    This is needed in order to begin to *shift the paradigm* in Artsakh’s favor, as Azerbaijan is increasingly successful at portraying itself as the victim instead of the victimizer. How about it?

  4. Hrant K. said:

    It would have helped a lot more , had Rep. B. Boxer, Cngrsmn Schiff and all Armenian Caucus members an

    Co-Chairs questioned Mr. Heffern too!!! (7)

  5. Osik said:

    I was watching and I agree that he evaded the G word but when Senator Robert Menendez started numerating all the violations that describes the word Genocide in the books and then asked him if to his knowledge Ottoman Turks committed most of those crimes his answer was clearly positive; so let’s give him some credit because if he is willing to be confirmed then how could he go against his president’s will and use the G word?
    We should not forget that nowadays Armenia is changed, those days that the President for using G word fired his beloved FM whom he took as a souvenir form US home is long gone; therefore we better send an Ambassador who is in the same track with the Armenia and Armenians.

  6. manooshag said:

    President Theodore Roosevelt had said that the worst acts during WWI was the Turkish elimination of the
    Christian Armenians by the Turks. Today, still pursued by these despots who seek their goals via the slaughters, rapes, tortures and more (today, labeled ‘Genocides’) still used by despots to gain their own convoluted goals… For none has the guts it takes to face the immoralty that Genocides offers to humanity – to step up and declare ENOUGH!! and, bring all the deviates/perpetrators to face justice. .. to end the cycle of Genocides – forever!!
    Nations punish all their criminals.. but when it comes to Genocides…perpetrators know they shall not be made to face justice!! (Except for the Holocaust). Seems some loss of lives are worthier… Seems justice prevails for some humans – but not all of humanity…. Seems morality has lost its way in the current political strata… Genocides shall continue… Seems, politically, there is discrimination too, in choosing whose Genocide shall or shall not be addressed – matters not whether for religious or racial victims… Genocides go on and on… But, then, when is the morality of the abuse of humans by humans addressed – OR – seems that this issue of Genocides will continue – politcally, oily, or bullying. Seems humans have yet to become humane enough to care that Genocides need to be ended… yesterday!!

  7. bigmoustache said:


  8. Stepan said:

    The single biggest priority for Armenia is to create a favorable investment environment to create
    permanent jobs and give the impressive and well educated young people hope for the future. Time has shown that when Armenians are given half a chance, we create and thrive. Zareh is correct. The political climate is tied to the population stability which is tied to economic opportunity. Look at our people have done when scattered like seeds to all corners of the earth. The diaspora must exercise its influence to work with the Armenian government to create this environment and attract job creation investor. This is well within our vast capability.

    • seb nazarian said:

      Sure, but a precondition is elimination of Soviet bloodsucking mentality of Armenians in Armenia

  9. manooshag said:

    Wow!! I figured out why the Germans were able to face up to the fact that their leadership had committed the violations against the Jews, were wrong to have committed Genocide of the Jews… It is because Germans, Germany as a nation, are basically a [people who were honest – humane -seeing inhumanity of the Hitler/Nazi regime. Therein lies the problem with the Turkeys… as a nation, as most of the Turkish peoples… whose leaderships are still of the hordes of Ottoman mentality out from the mountains of Asia… still leaders who know not how to join and belong together with other nations who seek to share honesty and connections with others, peoples of other languages, religiions and more – without the need to be always at odds with other peoples, other nations. This seems to be inherant with the Turks – seems to be in their genes… to hate Christians… a need -eliminate the Christians… to need to steal the Christian lands of the Armenians to belong to the Turks. As long as there are leaderships of this mentality the world has many problems with their stance… which needs many, many generations to overcome these ”obstacles'” – all of their own making… against the world’s nations…