BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
The first problem with the widely circulated reports that several Armenians have defrauded Medicare out of millions of dollars is that these individuals are innocent until proven guilty. Only after a court establishes their guilt, they can be labeled as crooks or criminals.
It is even more outrageous that the good name of all Armenians is being tarnished by sweeping media generalizations, bringing intense feelings of shame to millions of law-abiding Armenians who are overly sensitive about their reputation. Last week’s sensational headlines referring to an “Armenian crime syndicate” or “Armenian criminals” completely traumatized the Armenian-American community. Exploiting the media hype, all sorts of racists, Armenian-haters, and naturally, some Turks have come out of the woodwork to post vicious anti-Armenian comments on various internet sites.
One of the most insulting references to these arrests was made on the radio/internet show called “The Young Turks.” As if the name of the show was not offensive enough to Armenians, the co-hosts, Ana Kasparian, an Armenian-American, and Cenk Uygur, a Turkish American, last week repeatedly bashed the accused as well as all Armenians.
The fact that Kasparian is an Armenian makes her comments even more offensive. Trying to be funny or entertaining does not give her a license to hurl insults at individuals who have been merely accused, but not convicted of any crimes, and the community at large for the alleged crimes of a few! Here are excerpts of the co-hosts’ disgraceful remarks:
Kasparian: “Dozens of Armenians throughout the United States have recently got arrested for Medicare fraud. Now this is an age-old trick of Armenians. This is what Armenians do. OK. And that’s a gross generalization. And a large majority of these offenders lived in Glendale, California. I am not kidding. That’s a fact.
Uygur: That’s literally true! [Chuckling]. By the way, I am amused by the Armenian community Medicare fraud in Glendale. [Imitating an Armenian accent]: “You do Medical fraud? Of course. Who doesn’t do Medicare fraud? Come now!” Is that close to an Armenian accent?
Kasparian: It’s close. So, what these individuals would do is, they would steal the identities of doctors, identities of hundreds of thousands of individuals in the United States and they would make false claims. They would create these phantom health care clinics that don’t even really exist and then bill Medicare for treatments that never happened and then Medicare would send this money to these fake doctors or these doctors that have their identities stolen….
Uygur: Let me give you a little detail how it works. It’s kind of interesting. So, they steal a list of doctors’ names….
Kasparian: …There is shame on two different sides here. Shame on the Armenians and shame on the government for not realizing it until now — until these Armenians stole $163 million from Medicare [The correct figure is $35 million].
Uygur: You know what? That is a pretty good scam. You gotta give it up to them. They are working up in Glendale. [Chuckling].
Kasparian: And it wasn’t just in Glendale. These are Armenians throughout the country. Like, we got Armenians in New York City, we got Armenians in California, a couple in Ohio, some in New Mexico, some in Florida, all over the place. It’s a massive operation. They’re all connected. They all know what they’re doing. It’s insanity. In fact, officials equated this to the mafia. This is like the Armenian mafia operating in the United States. Part of me felt like I should be a little proud of that, because I am kind of a bad ass, but another part of me of course was humiliated. I feel so bad for the people that are victims of this. Because not only the government gets millions of dollars stolen from them, there are people who have their identity stolen. So these Armenians can sit at home, drive their Rolls Royces, and not do anything.
Uygur: I’m gonna take a little controversial view on this. Obviously, they couldn’t be more wrong — busted, go to jail, etc. We are not having any of that conversation. On the other hand, it is a little ingenious…. You know what happens! People get greedy. Once you got that scam going, and you haven’t got caught in a long time, you think let’s churn this thing out. Everyone wants a piece of the action. Next thing you know, everybody in Glendale knows, and they all want their cut in it. Of course, there is an ugly side to this. One of the guys I believe you saw in the picture was “vor.”
Kasparian: By the way, “vor” means “ass.” I’m wondering why all of the news articles refer to him as “vor.”
Uygur: The news articles claim that “vor” means “thief-in-law” which is a bizarre thing….
Violating all legal and journalistic norms, the co-hosts of the show never once use the words “alleged” or “accused” to describe the defendants. If the charges against some of these individuals are dropped, Kasparian and Uygur could be sued for libel.
So far tens of thousands of viewers have seen this particular episode on various internet sites. Thousands more have heard it on radio. Over 800 viewers have posted comments on YouTube alone. You can watch the show and post a comment by clicking on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUrFaecJOqE.