August 8, 2008

MEMPHIS, TN – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has learned that Capitol Hill Police and local Memphis law enforcement have launched separate investigations of Congressman Steve Cohen’s forced removal of Armenian American journalist Peter Musurlian from an August 6th press conference, reported Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA – Western Region).

Musurlian reportedly spoke with officers from the Memphis Police Department as well as Capitol Hill police, describing Rep. Cohen’s angry tirade and physical attack on the reporter. Memphis television and radio stations provided extensive coverage of the altercation, along with Rep. Cohen’s subsequent ethnic slurs directed at Armenian Americans.

“Rep. Cohen’s violent and bizarre actions against Musurlian are, taken in the most charitable light possible, ill-befitting a Member of Congress,” stated ANCA Western Region Board Chairman Vicken Sonentz-Papazian. “We know of at least two ongoing criminal investigations and I suspect the House of Representatives will be instituting disciplinary proceedings against Rep. Cohen for both his criminal assault and defamatory remarks toward the Armenian American community once Congress returns. Equally disturbing is Rep. Cohen’s characterization of both Musurlian, a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, and Armenian Americans as killers and assassins. This incident raises serious question as to whether this man is fit to remain a Member of Congress,” concluded Sonentz-Papazian.

Musurlian, who served as a journalist for the U.S. Armed Forces covering the conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia, traveled to Memphis to document the days leading up to the August 7th Democratic primary between first-term incumbent Steve Cohen and challenger, former civil rights lawyer, Nikki Tinker, for LA based Horizon Armenian Television. Musurlian works for a public access TV station in Burbank, California, in addition to running his own production company, Globalist Films.

Following a series of unanswered interview requests filed earlier this week, Musurlian attended several Cohen public events on Tuesday evening, documenting his campaign activities and looking for an opportunity to speak with the Congressman. Musurlian’s efforts to participate in a Wednesday press conference, hastily called by Cohen at his own residence, were cut short when a volatile and clearly agitated Cohen forcibly shoved Musurlian out the door, slamming it in frustration. He then instructed his aides to throw Musurlian’s tripod at the journalist.

Throughout the process, Cohen made disparaging references to Musurlian’s ethnicity, referring to him repeatedly as “that Armenian guy” and Armenian-Americans as “those Armenians,” going so far as to generalize Armenians as assassins and killers. “There have been Armenians who assassinated and killed many people including people in this country,” stated Rep. Cohen, “and I don’t rest very comfortable with one of these fellows coming into my home.”

The Armenian National Committee of America is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Ani Garabedian
Email / Tel: (818) 500-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
Western Region
104 N. Belmont, Suite 200, Glendale, CA 91206 * Tel. (818) 500-1918