In the curious case of City Council candidate Zareh Sinanyan, it might prove helpful to take a step back and evaluate the public record — what's been said, and, perhaps more importantly, what hasn't.
The hoopla, of course, centers on disparaging, ethnically charged and vulgar comments posted on sites like Facebook and YouTube under Sinanyan's name as far back as five years ago. The comments have cost Sinanyan some very high profile endorsements, including those of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian and L.A. mayoral run-off candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel.
And on Tuesday, they almost cost him his commission seat.
After days of refusing to speak to this newspaper — which investigated the veracity of the claims before ultimately deciding they were indeed strong enough to publish — the public appetite for some sort of explanation was palpable as Sinanyan took the podium. That two of his opponents in the election — Laura Friedman and Ara Najarian — called for the hearing brought the whole mess to high drama, or high camp, depending on your perspective.
But instead of an outright denial or admission, what the electorate got was a carefully worded statement designed to deceive, avoid accountability and save face.
To be clear, at a very public moment in which Sinanyan could have categorically disavowed the posts, all the public got was: “They do not represent who I am as a person. They do not reflect my values, my ideals.”
That is not a denial. In politico speak, it is a non-denial.
Sinanyan even refused to acknowledge that he even read many of the posts in question, despite their wide dissemination via this newspaper, emails and blogs, a tactic that seemed only to indicate a desire to obfuscate and confuse. That Sinanyan, an attorney — and by all accounts a very competent one — would not thoroughly research the facts prior to a hearing strains credulity.
Claiming ignorance at the podium and flatly refusing to directly address the very issue that had brought him before the City Council, Sinanyan appeared to do his best to show voters why many politicians deserve their bad reputation.
Instead of issuing a mea culpa, accepting responsibility — or offering an explanation for how the comments were posted without his knowledge — and moving on, Sinanyan rallied his campaign supporters in a show of force for the camera, danced to a tightly choreographed statement and tried to muddy as many points as possible in the court of public opinion.
City Councilman Rafi Manoukian was almost certainly referring to the entire premise for the discussion, but he said it best: “This is the worst kind of electioneering.”