U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) just doesn’t fare so well in unscripted situations. In the latest example of that political truism, Schmidt testified Monday for nearly five hours in a deposition taken by attorneys for David Krikorian.
The deposition was taken in preparation for a Sept. 3 hearing before the Ohio Elections Commission. Schmidt filed a complaint with the commission alleging that Krikorian knowingly made a false statement about Schmidt in a piece of campaign literature last year.
Krikorian ran as an independent against Schmidt in 2008 for Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District. During the campaign, Krikorian distributed a pamphlet alleging Schmidt had received “blood money” from the Turkish government in return for her opposition to a congressional resolution that declared Turkey committed genocide against Armenia during a 1915 conflict.
Schmidt’s opposition angered Krikorian, who is of Armenian descent. His grandparents almost became victims of the violence, Krikorian said, and Schmidt’s denial that genocide occurred is an insult to Armenian-American citizens. A Schmidt spokesman has said in the past that the congresswoman doesn’t believe the conflict meets the legal requirements to be dubbed genocide.
Krikorian has questioned why Schmidt accepts tens of thousands of dollars in donations from Turkish interests when there isn’t any significant number of Turkish-American residents in the 2nd District. He’s also called Schmidt’s complaint “frivolous.”
Monday’s deposition was videotaped by Krikorian’s attorneys, despite Schmidt’s protest.
“Ms. Schmidt strongly objected to David Krikorian's legal right to video tape her deposition as allowed by law,” a Krikorian press release states. “Attorneys for Ms. Schmidt complained to the Ohio Elections Commission to block distribution of the video portion of her testimony. Ms. Schmidt does not want the people of the district to view her testimony in this frivolous legal complaint she filed against David Krikorian.”
During her halting and vague testimony, Schmidt said she didn’t know why she was the largest recipient of campaign contributions by Turkish lobbyists in the 2008 campaign cycle. Also, she testified that she didn’t know anything about the Armenian Genocide other than it occurred during World War I.
Further, Schmidt said she didn’t know who Yalcin Ayasli is although he and his family donated $6,900 to her campaign last year and was an escort on her all-expenses paid trip to Turkey in May. Ayalsi is a contributor to the Turkish Coalition of America, which is dubbed a “genocide denial” group by Armenians.
For people who don't want to watch the video, here's a transcript of the deposition's best exchange. In her testimony, Schmidt said she personally wrote an editorial that appeared in a Turkish newspaper about the Armenian Genocide, but then cannot tell attorneys any details about the historical event.
Q. Okay. I'm going to give you something that's been marked as Exhibit A. That is an article from a newspaper called The Daily -- I'm sorry, "Today's Zaman." Do you know what that is? What is "Today's Zaman"?
A. (Perusing document.)
Q. Do you know what Today's Zaman is Mrs. Schmidt?
A. May I please have time to read this, sir.
Q. Oh, I'm sorry. Yes. Sure.
(EXHIBIT A MARKED FOR IDENTIFICATION)
A. (Perusing document.)
Q. Okay. Mrs. Schmidt, what is Today's Zaman?
A. I believe it's a periodical in Turkey.
Q. Okay. It's a -- it's a newspaper in Turkey. That would be your understanding?
A. Periodical, newspaper, something that is read by Turkey's citizens.
Q. Okay. And on June the 4th of this year you – you were published in Today's Zaman in Turkey; is that correct?
Q. You wrote an editorial?
Q. And that was to coincide with President Obama's visit to that country; is that correct?
A. Well, it coincided with his visit, yes.
Q. That wasn't the purpose of it to coincide?
A. No. It wasn't the purpose but it did coincide.
Q. Did you write this editorial?
Q. You did? These are your words?
Q. Did anyone else help you to write it?
A. I had it edited by my chief of staff.
Q. And did any outside persons, such as Mr. Fein or anyone else, help to write this?
Q. You had it edited, but the original draft came off of your word processor or pen; is that right?
A. Well, I don't use a word processor.
Q. Okay. So the original draft was a handwritten version from you?
A. Actually, it was an oral version to my chief of staff.
Q. You dictated this to him?
A. The ideas of it, yes.
Q. Okay. And in this you talk about the Armenian Genocide Resolution, right?
A. Where are you putting this in here so I know what you're referring to.
Q. Well, we could start with the bold headline that says: "US Congress should not debate the Armenian genocide resolution."
Q. Were those your words or was that something the daily Zaman added?
A. That I'm not sure of.
Q. Okay. Now, in the -- in the very last paragraph of that it says, "What happened in 1915 must never be forgotten." Do you see that?
Q. What -- what are you referring to that happened in 1915 that must never be forgotten? –
A. Well, there obviously was an incident that happened in 1915.
Q. And what was that incident?
A. Well, there was something that went on in Turkey that involved Turks and Armenians.
Q. Okay. And what is it that you remember about or that you know or have an understanding of about those events?
A. Well, I don't remember them because I wasn't there.
A. And I'm still trying to have a complete understanding of those events.
Q. I understand that. But you told all the people of Turkey that we shouldn't forget these events. I'm asking you: What is it that we're supposed to remember?
A. Well we shouldn't forget the past.
Q. And what is it about the events of 1915 that we're supposed to remember?
A. When I become a scholar of this, I'll let you know.
Q. Okay. But when you wrote this on June the 4th of 2009, you had no understanding at all of what happened in Turkey in 1915; is that right?
A. I said I had limited understanding.
Q. Okay. And I've asked you four times this morning to tell us what that limited understanding is, and you've told me nothing.
Q. Events happened. And what were those events?
A. People got killed on both sides. How many people? I don't know.
Q. And that's your total sum and substance of your understanding of that event?
A. That's about the basic understanding, yes.