Google gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Young Turks as others have distanced themselves from the progressive YouTube series over its founder's denials of the Armenian genocide and other offensive comments.
Axios first reported Tuesday that Google invested "in the mid-six figures range" in the left-wing outlet as part of the Google News Initiative to support local journalism. Google decided to partner with the Young Turks despite ongoing controversies surrounding its founder, Cenk Uygur. Uygur has drawn criticism for offensive comments about women and Jews, as well as his denials of the Armenian genocide.
The Young Turks told Axios that the outlet was "not interested in cranking out journalists who share our political viewpoint," adding that the Google-funded "TYT Academy" videos starring Uygur do not have any evident political bias.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), one of the leading U.S. organizations lobbying for Armenian genocide awareness and recognition, expressed displeasure with Google's decision to fund the Young Turks. ANCA said that those who deny the historic slaughter of more than 1 million people should not be recognized in journalism circles.
"A talk show founded by an Armenian Genocide denier, named after Armenian Genocide perpetrators, is a poor platform for teaching responsible journalism," Executive Director Aram Hamparian said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was forced to retract his endorsement of Uygur's California congressional campaign in December due to the pundit's comments about women and Jews. Uygur was ousted two years earlier from Justice Democrats, a group he helped found, for the same comments.
Uygur has a long history of genocide denial, dating back to his college days at the University of Pennsylvania. The student-run Daily Pennsylvanian reported in 1991 that Uygur attempted to strip the Armenian Club of its funding at a student government meeting.
Uygur picked another fight with the Armenian Club in an op-ed he wrote for the paper later that year. The op-ed said that "the claims of an Armenian Genocide are not based on historical facts. If the history of the period is examined it becomes evident that in fact no such genocide took place."
In 1999, Uygur took issue with Salon for its acknowledgment of the genocide, arguing that "every non-Armenian scholar in the field believes it is an open question whether this event was a genocide." Internet Archive indicates that an article on Uygur's Salon dispute remained on the Young Turks website until 2003.
After being confronted about his views in 2016, Uygur issued a statement rescinding his previous writings on the Armenian Genocide but stopped short of acknowledging the massacre. Instead, Uygur wrote that he was not "a scholar of history" and would "refrain from commenting on the topic of the Armenian Genocide, which I do not know nearly enough about." In 2017, Uygur filmed a video message for the Turkish Coalition of America, an organization that denies the Armenian genocide.
Uygur finally took what the Armenian Weekly called a "belated baby step" in 2019 by stating in a video, "The Armenian genocide happened. It existed, it's true." Uygur filed his candidacy for Congress six months later.
ANCA takes issue with Uygur's entire enterprise, not just his comments. The "Young Turks" was a liberal-minded movement that instigated a revolution in the Ottoman Empire in 1908 but later carried out the Armenian genocide during the First World War. Hamparian called on Google to force channel executives to reckon with the historical baggage of the name.
"The Young Turks—like the Khmer Rouge or Nazis—is a name that should never be normalized—all the more so because Turkey continues to lie about its crimes and obstruct the justice owed their Christian victims," Hamparian said. "If Google thinks The Young Turks have something to offer, they should have a serious conversation first about changing the name of their show."
Uygur continues to defend the name and denies any connection between it and his genocide denial. The show's website says the name is based on an American Heritage Dictionary definition: "young person who rebels against authority or societal expectations." The website adds that the name "does not refer to any specific, historical incarnation of The Young Turks."
Neither the Young Turks nor Google responded to requests for comment.