You’ll remember that Essel is Paul Krekorian’s opponent in the December 8 Special Election to fill the vacant 2nd Council District seat in the City of Los Angeles. You’ll also recall that on October 17, she attended an event hosted by Genocide-deniers. As if this wasn’t bad enough, now our intelligence is being insulted by her “explanations” of that event. I hope some of her Armenian supporters read this and give her an earful. Some of them are significant names. They are media folks, so their early financial support of Essel is not particularly surprising. She too comes from that background. Some other Armenians’ support though is more puzzling. These comments are based on the list of her contributors available online (HERE)
But far more interesting and relevant to this article is the presence of one key name— Ergun Kirlikovali —on her contributors’ list. You may recognize this guy’s name. He’s probably the preeminent, non-academic, Genocide denier in the LA area and California, if not the U.S. He’s been at it at least since the days when California was working on adopting legislation to integrate Armenian Genocide instruction in its curriculum, back in the 1980s. He’s also had letters published repeatedly in the LATimes over the years. He’s also the president-elect of the ATAA (Assembly of Turkish American Associations), not an organization noted for its Genocide recognition advocacy. One of its Board members was a sponsor of the event, according to the LAWeekly, in its piece about this situation.
Since the event, and probably in response to the play it got in the Armenian and non-Armenian media, Essel has released a statement. In it she states that she’s always supported Genocide recognition. She also professes “deep respect” for us. More’s the irony, you’ll see why. Asbarez also reported that Tom Berman, her campaign manager, emphasized that the infamous event was only a “meet and greet”, not a fundraiser. So how does he explain the Kirlikovali contribution, reported by the Essel campaign as deposited on October 22nd? That’s suspiciously close to the amount of time it would take for the mails to deliver a check or an event host to deliver to the campaign what he/she received. Also, I was told that last week, one of the Armenian newspapers in Constantinople, Marmara, re-reported from Yeni Shafak, one of the Turkish papers, that the Essel campaign, bowing to the Armenian lobby’s pressure had returned all the contributions from the event. We all know how unreliable the Turkish media can be, so this has to be taken with a grain of salt. But if it’s true, it sure calls into question Tom Berman’s assertion.
Not only are we supposed to disregard these last pesky financial facts, but also we’re supposed to be so dumb as to not figure out what she tried to pull. Essel knew she stood to get few Armenian votes, for obvious reasons, in a district with a fairly large Armenian population that will vote overwhelmingly for Krekorian. This is much as a Jewish or Black candidate would draw from his/her fellows in an election against a candidate from another group. So, Essel tried to pull a fast one and got busted. She figured, “No votes, but I can probably get some bucks from the Turkish side” and chose to go to the deniers’ sponsored event. This would be akin to, in the other two examples I give, going to a neo-Nazi or KKK hosted event.
Essel’s sincerity is brought into further question in light of the obviously sarcastic remark, reported in the LAWeekly: “The Essel campaign does not refuse to meet with people on the basis of their ethnicity”. Gee whiz, golly, wow, I wonder who was advocating that approach? It’s a nice ploy, diversionary tactic, but one which speaks to the cynicism of this whole project. Condemning neo-Nazis and KKK members is significantly different from proposing to not meet with all Germans or people from the former Confederacy.
It’s time Christine Essel comes clean, apologizes to the Armenian for the sequence of affronts, and denounces the deniers by returning any funds she’s received and publicly calling them out for what they are and do.