By Ted AYALA
Ending weeks of scrutiny and speculation, newly sworn in Glendale City Councilmember Zareh Sinanyan admitted to being the author of racist comments that were uncovered early last month. The slurs against Muslims, Hispanics, and gays triggered a fierce reaction from many in the community.
At the time, Sinanyan and his supporters said the controversy about the comments were part of an orchestrated “smear” campaign to deny him office, a charge that was repeated and disseminated widely by his supporters. He also aimed much of the blame for the controversy at Councilmember Laura Friedman, who was running as an incumbent.
Referring to her motion to remove Sinanyan from the Community Development Block Grant Advisory Board, he said that Friedman had displayed “a blatant disregard for ethical standards” and was using the city charter for her own “electioneering purposes.”
Rafi Manoukian, who at the time was serving as councilmember, supported Sinanyan, calling the furor “a political hit” designed by Friedman.
It was this defensive posture, which lashed out harshly while seeking to avoid blame, that worried some members of the community.
A speaker at the city council last Tuesday, looking flustered and unwilling to state her name on record, said that Sinanyan had “lied about a ‘smear campaign’” and that “it appears he misled the people of Glendale.”
“The people of Glendale deserve a recall [election for Sinanyan],” she said, “and full disclosure of his conduct and comments both in English and Armenian.”
The latter part of that statement refers to comments Sinanyan made last month on Horizon Armenian Television, where he likened Friedman to a Turk.
“Mr. Sinanyan has grave issues with rage, common sense, truth, and accountability,” the anonymous speaker continued. “Not to mention [the] sheer disdain his comments displayed for the Muslim, Mexican, and gay community and the complete lack of respect for the Armenian community for his inexcusable behavior.”
Gray James said she “still felt nervous” about getting “beat up by hate” in Glendale.
Referring to an email by a person who wished to speak against Sinanyan but felt afraid to so given the zealousness of his core supporters, James said that the author of the email was already an easy target and wasn’t willing to subject themselves or their children to the “outcry from the thousands of Armenians that support him.”
“Hate begets fear begets more hate,” Gray went on. “In the matter of Mr. Sinanyan, some city councilmembers didn’t want to do their job, some of them wanted to brush this matter under the carpet, hoped to forget about it and threaten other people who were willing to pursue it.
She also reminded council that they are to serve the entire community, including those too afraid to voice their concerns.
Glendale High School freshman Zehra Siddiqui, who spoke last week about the comments, thanked Sinanyan for finally admitting his guilt in public.
“Thank you for doing the right thing and proving that you’re a role model for Glendale,” she said. “Now that everything is out in the open we can move on and come together.”