WASHINGTON–Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) Wednesday forcibly removed Armenian American journalist Peter Musurlian from a press conference, apparently frustrated by repeated calls to explain his Congressional opposition to legislation recognizing the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
"Apparently we need to send Congressman Cohen a copy of the first amendment as well as the state penal code," stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "Physically throwing out a reporter committed to getting the facts on his opposition to genocide legislation, is nothing more than a high school bully tactic and is conduct ill-befitting a Member of Congress."
Musurlian, who works for a public access TV station in Burbank, California, in addition to running his own production company, Globalist Films, had traveled to Memphis to document the days leading up to the contentious August 7th Democratic primary between first-term incumbent Steve Cohen and challenger, former civil rights lawyer, Nikki Tinker, for LA based Horizon Armenian Television.
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. Throughout the process, Cohen made disparaging references to Musurlian’s Armenian heritage, and proudly stated his opposition to human rights legislation commemorating the Armenian Genocide. That resolution, H.Res.106, has over 200 Congressional cosponsors and was adopted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last October. Following Committee adoption of H.Res.106, Cohen was a leader amongst a handful of Democratic legislators opposing full House passage of the resolution, going so far as holding a Capitol Hill press conference against the human rights measure.
"Genocide must be universally condemned – whenever and wherever it occurs. Rep. Cohen’s opposition to Armenian Genocide recognition today, begs the question: Which genocide will he oppose commemorating tomorrow?" noted Hamparian.
In the weeks leading up to tomorrow’s primary, Armenian Americans in Memphis and across the U.S. joined Emily’s List and the Congressional Black Caucus PAC in supporting challenger Nikki Tinker. Tinker, in response to an ANCA Congressional Questionnaire, pledged to support House passage of Armenian Genocide legislation, as well as legislation to put an end to the ongoing Genocide in Darfur. The ANCA has endorsed Tinker and encouraged community support for the candidate, resulting in over $35,000 in contributions, a large portion donated through http://www.actblue.com/page/armenia’sfornikki, organized by Memphis activist Dany Beylerian.
Rep. Cohen’s actions against Musurlian were the top news story throughout Wednesday on Memphis television and radio stations. Links to the raw footage from the Cohen shoving incident and local news coverage are available on the ANCA website atwww.anca.org .
Polls for the Congressional Democratic primary are opened at 7:00am (Central Time) on August 7th.