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By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

Ergun Kirlikovali, a resident of Orange County, California, and former president of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, has carried out a life-long Don Quixotic battle against recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Unfortunately for him, the more he denies the Genocide, the more he helps publicize it.

Here is the latest episode of Kirli’s ‘heroic’ actions which once again backfired on him and his obsessive denialism.

On April 24, as 60,000 protestors gathered in front of the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles, Kirli showed up with a handful of his denialist compatriots trying to cover up the tarnished image of their homeland! The Turks’ presence at the protest attracted the attention of the local news media, generating more publicity for the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

To take credit for his anti-Armenian protest, Kirli had a cohort videotape his interview with KABC-TV, during which he once again denied the Armenian Genocide. Shockingly, in the midst of the interview, the KABC cameraman made derogatory remarks about Armenians, calling them “thug-like idiots.”

In its news coverage of the April 24 protest, KABC used a sound bite from Kirli’s 8-minute rant. However, no one would have known about the cameraman’s prejudicial comments, if it were not for Kirli posting the raw footage of his interview on Facebook, which got the anti-Armenian cameraman in hot water.

In response to complaints from the public, KABC promptly issued a statement apologizing for its freelance cameraman’s remarks and announcing the termination of his services with the TV station. However, KABC insisted that its story was “fair and accurate.” Many viewers disagreed, citing the inclusion of Kirli’s denialist views in the broadcast. In a phone conversation with KABC’s General Manager last week, I discussed the pitfalls of providing airtime to a denialist and the positive steps the TV station could initiate to educate viewers about the Armenian Genocide. Upset by the station’s conciliatory statement, Kirli posted on Facebook his “disappointment” with KABC’s apology and dismissal of the cameraman after complaints from “Armenian pressure groups.”

The Armenian National Committee of America -- Western Region (ANCA) and Armenian Youth Federation -- Western US (AYF) issued a joint statement contesting KABC’s decision to provide a platform to a notorious genocide denier and asked for a meeting with the TV station’s management. They justifiably contended that KABC would never interview a neo-Nazi while covering a Holocaust commemorative event.

Subsequently, KABC’s management agreed to meet with representatives of ANCA, AYF, and the Armenian Bar Association, and removed from the TV station’s website Kirli’s offensive words along with the questionable news story! After the meeting, Cheryl Kunin Fair, President and General Manager of KABC-TV, issued the following highly principled statement on May 2:

“ABC7 regrets what happened and apologizes for the pain this incident caused the Armenian community, especially on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. The actions of the cameraman in question, who no longer works for the station, and the resulting story that aired that day, were not an accurate reflection of ABC7′ s commitment to the Armenian community. While the cameraman’s comments did not air, we regret the inclusion in our story of a short bite from the interview denying the existence of the Genocide on historical grounds, which is counter to the position of a majority of historians today who do call it a Genocide, and see the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians as a premeditated and systematic campaign to exterminate an entire people. Efforts are underway in partnership with the ANCA, AYF, Armenian Bar Association and others to provide opportunities for public dialogue, internal education, and meaningful stories about and for the Armenian community and their efforts for Genocide recognition and education. We are committed to moving forward with these initiatives and we thank the ANCA and its partner organizations for their leadership in this dialogue and willingness to listen.”

KABC-TV should be commended for issuing such a reassuring statement, apologizing for the offense caused to the Armenian community, promising not to use the services of the bigoted cameraman, expressing regret for interviewing a genocide denialist, reaffirming the truth of the Armenian Genocide, and pledging to work with community organizations to educate the public on this critical issue. Without Kirli’s persistent denialist endeavors, none of these constructive steps would have been possible!

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