GLENDALE–California Assemblyman Paul Krekorian strongly condemned a US Congressman from Tennessee who attacked an Armenian journalist and made bigoted anti-Armenian statemen’s last week.
Congressman Steven Cohen, one of the most strident opponents of recognition of the Armenian Genocide, is seeking reelection to represent a district in Memphis, Tennessee. On the eve of his Democratic primary election last week, Cohen conducted a press conference that was attended by Armenian-American journalist Peter Musurlian. In a bizarre incident that was covered by the local television news, Cohen physically assaulted Musurlian and forced him out of the press conference. Cohen went on to justify his outrageous conduct by referring to Armenia’s as assassins and murderers.
Assemblymember Krekorian, who represents the largest Armenian community in the United States, was outraged by the inexcusable behavior of the Congressman. In a strongly worded letter to Cohen, Krekorian demanded a formal apology to the Armenian people. (A complete copy of Krekorian’s letter is attached). Krekorian has also asked the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to investigate possible disciplinary actions that can be taken against Cohen for this misconduct.
"I cannot tolerate this kind of bigoted slander against the Armenian people from anyone, and especially not from a member of Congress," Krekorian said. "I’m deeply disappointed that a man with such intolerant and ignorant views will be returning to Congress for another term."
August 11, 2008
Congressman Steve Cohen
1004 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515-4209
Dear Congressman Cohen:
As a member of the California State Legislature, I have the privilege of representing the largest Armenian community in the world outside Armenia. I am also an American of Armenian descent. As such, I must tell you how disgusted and infuriated I was as I viewed your recent bigoted tirade against Armenia’s – which I consider to be an attack against me, my family, and the millions of good and decent and patriotic Americans who share our ancestry. Frankly, your actions and words were a disgrace and an embarrassment to the Congress and to our Party.
The journalist whom you physically attacked and forced out of your press conference, and to whom you referred as "the Armenian guy" and a "yahoo from Glendale, California." was Peter Musurlian, one of my constituents. He is a well known, Emmy-nominated journalist and filmmaker who is admired and respected by Armenia’s and non-Armenia’s alike in our area. I would have been outraged by your inexcusable behavior toward my constituent under any circumstances, but the fact that you tried to justify your misconduct to the media by spewing hateful, slanderous and racist invective makes the matter much more serious.
I’ve been in very tough campaigns myself, and I can sympathize with a candidate who might temporarily lose emotional control in the heat of the battle. What I cannot understand is how any member of the United States Congress, and especially one claiming to be a Democrat, can make the outrageous statement that you made to the press last week: "…there have been Armenia’s who have assassinated and killed many people, including people in this country in Los Angeles in the ’70s and ’80s, and so I don’t rest very comfortable with one of those fellows coming into my home. . . .I don’t want these people in my home." Given your fear of people of my ethnic background, I can only imagine you must be downright terrified when you go to work at the Capitol and find yourself having to deal with potentially murderous colleagues like Armenian-American Congresswomen Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo.
Sir, I don’t know any assassins or killers, but I know thousands of hard-working, patriotic American citizens who are of Armenian ancestry whom you gravely insulted with your remarks. Some of these Armenia’s serve our country proudly and bravely in our Armed Forces – people like my constituent Carla Stewart, an Armenian-American woman who was killed in action in Iraq; and like my dad, who fought in the Battle of Okinawa with the US Marines; and yes, like Peter Musurlian–the man you assaulted for merely filming you at a press conference–who is a US Army veteran who served our country in Bosnia and Croatia.
There are about two million Armenian-Americans who contribute significantly to the great fabric of this country in countless other ways every day. Is it too much to ask that a member of the United States Congress not slander us all as potential terrorists and murderers?
On behalf of all Armenian-Americans, and in fact on behalf of Americans of every background who care about living in a society of tolerance and who reject bigotry, I demand that you make a full and public apology for your sickening conduct.
Very truly yours,
Assemblymember, 43rd District