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Ron Kaye: Zareh Sinanyan admits racist remarks, expresses regret

April 19, 2013
  • FILE PHOTO: Zareh Sinanyan
FILE PHOTO: Zareh Sinanyan (Cheryl A. Guerrero…)

It was a week Zareh Sinanyan will never forget. The man who left the Soviet Republic of Armenia as a 14-year-old a quarter century ago took his seat as a Glendale City Councilman on Monday, faced harsh criticism from residents during public comment on Tuesday over hateful comments he posted on the Internet several years ago, attended several community events in his official capacity and then sat down to clear the air.

"I engaged people in conversation in an unacceptable and emotional way that I deeply regret," he said, repeating the word "regret" more than 20 times during our 40-minute chat.

"They were conversations — antagonistic conversations — about the Armenian genocide, Armenian-Azeri relations, things my family experienced directly. They would say things like, 'We should have done more to you. We should have finished the job.'

"It's impossible for me to look at those conversations and even say that's me. That does not justify it. I regret having made those statements. I regret having hurt anyone. I regret using that language. I'm not excusing myself in any way."

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Those were hard words for a proud man to utter, a man who like most Armenians will never be able to let go of what happened in 1915 and what has happened so often to Armenians over the years until there is official recognition of their suffering.

The anti-gay, anti-Muslim comments Sinanyan made on YouTube five years or so ago came back to haunt him in the campaign's last month — "29 days before the election," he says, and he was called to account on blogs, in the press and before the City Council, which wanted to know if he should be removed from a city commission.

His response was to stonewall the issue, a non-denial denial that left many in the community angry and seemed to jeopardize his chances to win the election. But he went on the warpath and rallied the Armenian community, which used its organizational and economic muscle to help him win the open seat created by Frank Quintero's retirement.

"To say that I was jarred would be a gross understatement. The campaign ground to a halt. I lost weight. I kept thinking, 'Who is doing this? Why are they doing this?'

"My reputation has been a positive one. I knew they couldn't bring someone in who knew me who would say, 'Yes, he's a well-known racist, yes, a homophobe.' But I was accused of those things. I wasn't thinking straight. I needed to get some sleep to rationally think about this."

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