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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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April 24th, 2014
11:51 AM ET

For 6th year in a row, Obama breaks promise to acknowledge Armenian genocide

By CNN chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper

(CNN) – For the sixth year in a row, President Barack Obama has broken his promise to the Armenian community, made when seeking their votes as a senator and a presidential candidate, to use the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. He did this in deference to the government of Turkey, which – historical revisionism aside – the Obama administration regards as a more crucial ally.

"It's a sad spectacle to see our President, who came into office having promised to recognize the Armenian Genocide, reduced to enforcing a foreign government's gag-rule on what our country can say about a genocide so very thoroughly documented in our own nation's archives,” Armenian National Committee of America executive director Aram Hamparian said in a statement.

“We remain profoundly disappointed that he has, once again, retreated from his own promises and fallen short of the principled stand taken by previous presidents,” Hamparian said.

The President’s statement today alludes to what he actually thinks, without stating it forthrightly.

“I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed,” Obama said in a statement that avoided use of the “g” word.

The disappointment from Armenian-Americans is all the more profound because not only did then-Senator Obama promise to call the massacre a “genocide,” he held up his willingness to do so as an example of why he was the kind of candidate the nation needed, noting as a presidential candidate that in 2006 he had criticized then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for firing U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans “after he properly used the term ‘genocide’ to describe Turkey’s slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915. I shared with Secretary Rice my firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence.”

“The facts are undeniable,” Obama said then, though today he denied them.

“America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides,” he said in 2008. “I intend to be that president.”

The larger issue here beyond broken promises can be seen in a January 2008 letter to the Armenian Reporter, in which Obama said he shared “with Armenian Americans — so many of whom are descended from genocide survivors — a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide. That starts with acknowledging the tragic instances of genocide in world history.”

The President’s current Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her vivid 2003 book “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.” In the book, Power criticized successive presidents for failing to stop genocide, with the profound conclusion that it “is daunting to acknowledge, but this country’s consistent policy of nonintervention in the face of genocide offers sad testimony not to a broken political system but to one that is ruthlessly effective. The system, as it stands now, is working. No U.S. president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no U.S. president has ever suffered political for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on.”

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