A week after calling for a “day of reckoning” against President Donald Trump’s “racist” comments, President Barack Obama on Tuesday used the word “ethnic cleansing” in a tweet aimed at a reporter who questioned his decision to use the term.
“The President’s statement last night is a blatant, shameful, and offensive lie.
It was an insult to the memory of victims of the genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians, and other ethnic groups during the Armenian Genocide,” Obama wrote.
“We cannot let him get away with this.
We cannot let racism and hatred take hold again.”
A reporter for BuzzFeed News, who asked about the President’s reference to “ethnic cleansings,” later clarified the President was not using the word for a specific act of genocide, but instead for “a pattern of ethnic cleansing.”
The word is a common one in Europe, and the word itself is often used as a noun or an adjective.
The term was first used by the Nazis during World War II to refer to the deliberate killing of Jews and other “persecuted” groups, and in some instances, has been used to refer specifically to actions carried out by members of a particular ethnic group.
“What the President is referring to is the practice of ethnic cleansings that was a central part of the systematic genocide against the Armenian, Assyrian, and others,” said David Balogh, a historian and author of The Genocide in the Modern World.
“It was part of what was going on, and it was carried out in a systematic manner, so the term was inextricably linked to it.”
The President, who has said that the term is “inappropriate” in the context of the current crisis in the Middle East, has repeatedly used the term, saying during the campaign that the “tens of millions of Armenians and other religious minorities were murdered” during the genocide.
The word has been around since the early 20th century, though the term has been more recently used to describe acts of ethnic violence, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
A CNN analysis of historical records showed that more than a million Armenians were killed in 1915, the year the Ottoman Empire fell.
The United Nations estimated that as many as 3.5 million people were killed during the entire Armenian genocide.