DEVELOPING STORY: MEMPHIS NEWSPAPER DESCRIBES STEVEN COHEN SHOVING ARMENIAN AMERICAN JOURNALIST OUT OF PRESS CONFERENCE

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August 6, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC – The Memphis Commercial Appeal today reported that Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) – who has been a leading opponent of U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide – forcibly shoved Peter Musurlian, an Armenian American video journalist, from a press conference in his Memphis home, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). The full story is provided below.

Cohen faces challenger Nikki Tinker in tomorrow’s Democratic Primary.

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Cohen asks photographer to leave his home, then pushes him out

By Zack McMillin (Contact), Memphis Commercial AppealOriginally published 01:25 p.m., August 6, 2008Updated 02:14 p.m., August 6, 2008

Memphis Police were called to the home of Congressman Steve Cohen today after an an argument between Cohen and a Armenian-American cameraman in town from California ended with Cohen physically pushing him out the side door.

Peter Musurlian of Globalist Films in Glendale, Calif., followed a reporter from The Commercial Appeal into Cohen’s Overton Park home, where the Congressman had invited local media to respond to a commercial from Nikki Tinker, his 9th Congressional District opponent in Thursday’s Democratic Primary, that Cohen called “more mudslinging.”

When members of Cohen’s staff realized who the cameraman was – he had followed Cohen around on Tuesday night at National Night Out neighborhood events – they told him he was not invited and asked him to leave.

Musurlian refused, saying he deserved a place in the open press conference, and continued arguing before Cohen got off his couch and angrily told Musurlian to leave, accusing him of trespassing.

Then Cohen said, “You come outside, I’m going to talk to you. I’ll give you an interview.” When Musurlian retreated to the threshold, Cohen put both hands on his arms, forced him from the house and shut the door.

Cohen’s staff retrieved a tripod and a bag containing audio equipment and returned it to Musurlian, who later said an expensive part had been broken. Musurlian stood across the street from the house and eventually gave statements to the media and to police.

Cohen also talked to police and said he had no intention of pressing charges. Musurlian said he intended to press charges because of the damage to his equipment.

Armenian-Americans from around the country have been enraged at Cohen for his part in stopping Congress from passing a resolution last year that would have condemned Turkey for committing genocide against Armenians when the Ottoman Empire was disintegrating during and after World War I.

Armenian-Americans have donated between $25,000 and $30,000 to Tinker’s campaign and are actively working to defeat Cohen.

Cohen has often spoken of his pride in stopping the resolution, saying that during his Congressional trip to the Middle East that he specifically asked Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, about the ramifications of passing a resolution that Turkey vowed would cause it to cut off all aid to the U.S. effort in Iraq.

“I’m proud of what I did,” Cohen said. “Gen. Petraeus, when I went to Baghdad, I asked him what his position was on the Armenian resolution and he said, ‘I am glad you brought that up. That would be very devastating to our troops.’ The Turks are our friends in NATO, they allow 8,000 trucks a day through Turkey into Iraq to serve our troops with supplies and needs. Those trucks could be stopped and the Turks are very serious about that. They allow us to use our airbase.

“‘He said, ‘That would be really devastating to our mission.’ While I am against the mission of the Iraq war, I am for protecting our troops. And to pass that resolution would have been irresponsible and the Congress saw that. President Carter and President Clinton both opposed it because they said we shouldn’t be doing that to upset the Turks.

“Determining what happened in history when it is a foreign nation and something we had nothing to do with is not the job of the United States Congress. It’s a job for historians. The bottom line is at this time in 2007 and 2008 and possibly in 2009 it is the last thing to throw in the face of one of our few allies in the Middle East.”

Musurlian attempted to give Memphis media a history lesson about what many historians have declared a genocide but which Turkey maintains was a much more complicated set of events unleashed by the world war and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

“This is a particular issue that I know maybe 50 people in Memphis are interested in but they should be interested in it,” Musurlian said. “It may sound ancient, but it’s not as ancient as slavery.”

That seemed to be an allusion to the resolution Cohen did usher through Congress last week, with the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time apologizing to African-Americans for slavery and Jim Crow oppression and degradation.

Cohen had called the press conference to explain his vote in 1997, while in the State Senate, against a bill called the “Tennessee Student Religious Liberty Act” that a Tinker ad said shows that Cohen “is the only Congressman that doesn’t think our kids should be allowed to pray in schools.”

Cohen said today he unequivocally does not oppose prayer in schools, but that he opposed that bill because it was meaningless pandering.

“They gave that bill a nice title to make it sound good, but I am just repulsed by people who will use religion to foster their political reputations and careers,” Cohen said. “I voted it because it was a) unnecessary, b) trying to use religion on a false manner deluding the people to make them think they were doing something when they were not doing anything.”

And Cohen sounded a theme heard often over the years in Memphis, accusing “outsiders” of meddling

“He needs to go back to California, EMILY’s List needs to go back to Washington and New York, and the people who are doing these ads from Washington, they need to go home too,” Cohen said. “Memphians will determine this election. And all these outsiders who don’t know Steve Cohen, they need to get out of here.”

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918 / (703) 585-8254 cell
Armenian National Committee of America
1711 N Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036
Tel. (202) 775-1918 * Fax. (202) 775-5648 * Email.anca@anca.org
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