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Is the CEO of Turkey’s Newest U.S. PR Firm Really Armenian?

Ronn Torossian (Photo: Juda Engelmayer)

Two articles by Louise Neu on Medium.com have revealed that Ronn Torossian’s public relation’s firm signed a contract to represent Turkey earlier this year.

Torossian is CEO of the 5WPR firm, based in New York City.

Justice Department records indicate Torossian signed the agreement on May 25, 2017. His firm will get paid an additional $60,000 for the period of May 16-Nov. 16, 2017, which is automatically renewable for another six months. This payment is in addition to the amount specified in a contract signed on Aug. 10, 2016.

It is noteworthy that Torossian signed the agreement with Turkey nine days after President Erdogan watched his bodyguards beat up a group of demonstrators in front of Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C. Three days after the protesters were beaten and injured, Torossian published an article in The Algemeiner, titled “Deport Radical Islamist Preacher [Gulen] and Maintain American Interests.”

Neu revealed that Torossian had written another article, in Newsmax, on Feb. 17, criticizing the media coverage of Michael Flynn’s resignation. Ironically, Torossian had written an earlier article in Newsmax on May 20, 2015, critical of PR Firm Levick Communications’ work for the Embassy of Qatar, in which he stated: “There are those who feel it is OK to spin for dictators and terrorists. Yet, this writer [Torossian] agrees with the owner of the world’s largest PR firm, Richard Edelman, who said, ‘PR is not like the law—Not everyone deserves representation.” Contradicting himself, Torossian engaged in the hypocritical action of defending the interests of Erdogan, the dictator of Turkey.

In addition, on Jan. 27, 2017, Torossian wrote in The Observer, published by Pres. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, criticizing PR firms that “whitewash repressive regimes.” He concluded: “dictators and terrorists don’t deserve any PR help.”

I called Torossian’s office twice. Each time a staff member assured me that he would return my call, but I never heard from him. Louise Neu had a similar experience when she tried to reach Torossian. When she tweeted him about his connections to Turkey and Trump associates, Torossian tweeted back: “I shot JFK! My ex-wife is Russian!!!! I even ate caviar this week!”

Not only is Torossian impolite in not responding to phone messages, but he is reported to have a bad temper against his employees and others. The New York Times described him as “brash and aggressively outspoken.” He is also reported to have business dealings with shady Jewish and Russian oligarchs, according to Neu. Even though Torossian has an Armenian last name, I was not able to confirm whether either of his parents is of Armenian descent.

Torossian is also “a partner, Chief Marketing Officer and advisory Board member of JetSmarter,” according to his LinkedIn profile. JetSmarter is a controversial company described as “uber for planes.” The CEO of JetSmarter is Sergey Petrossov, the son of Vatchagan Petrossov, who definitely has an Armenian name.

The main reason I was interested in Torossian’s employment as a PR agent for Turkey is that there was a similar situation with Barry Zorthian, who worked from Oct. 1980 to February 1984 for the lobbying firm of Gray and Co., hired by Turkey. Zorthian was a former executive for Voice of America and Time Inc. In 1968-69 he was the chief U.S. spokesperson in Saigon, Vietnam.

After I had become aware that Zorthian was simultaneously an executive at a lobbying firm for Turkey and Board Member of the Armenian Assembly of America, I called him to ask whether his dual roles did not create a conflict personally or for his firm. As a sign of respect for a fellow Armenian, I cautioned him that if he answered my questions, it could lead to his dismissal from his job. Zorthian, 63, replied that he did not care whether he lost his $65,000-a-year job as senior vice president of Gray and Co. He went ahead and honestly answered all my questions. Zorthian explained that he worked in the public relations office and not on the Turkey account, which was handled by the firm’s lobbying department.

As soon as my article was published on the front page of the California Courier on Jan. 19, 1984, the Turkish newspaper Tercuman reported my interview with Zorthian, which caused a great embarrassment to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, finding out that an Armenian-American was a top executive for the lobbying firm that was getting paid $300,000 a year by Turkey.

On Feb. 21, 1984, the lobbying firm’s vice chairperson, Alejandro Orfila, told Zorthian that the Turkish Ambassador Sukru Elekdag was extremely irate reading the newspaper report. Orfila quoted Ambassador Elekdag, stating: “I hired you guys to help me with my political problems, and instead you’re creating problems for me…. You must do something drastic that I can report back to my government or else I’ll be forced to cancel the contract.”

The PR firm’s chairman, Robert K. Gray, cut his vacation short in Acapulco, Mexico, and immediately returned to Washington. Zorthian was fired after rejecting Mr. Gray’s request to resign.

Even though I was not pleased to see Mr. Zorthian lose his job, as a young reporter who had started working as a journalist six months earlier, I was glad that my obscure article made the headlines in Turkey and came to the attention of the Turkish Foreign Ministry and Ambassador Elekdag. Furthermore, the Washington Post wrote a lengthy article on April 13, 1984, quoting from my article and mentioning my newspaper as the source of this international controversy.

I urged Zorthian to file a lawsuit accusing Gray and Co. of employment discrimination because of his national origin. Zorthian did file charges with the Washington D.C. Office of Human Rights, claiming he was illegally fired because of his Armenian background.

Unfortunately, I do not know the outcome of Zorthian’s lawsuit. Both he and his wife have passed away since then.

If Torossian is truly an Armenian, how could he do PR for Turkey? More importantly, how could Turkey hire him given Zorthian’s experience?

18 Comments on Is the CEO of Turkey’s Newest U.S. PR Firm Really Armenian?

  1. Everything online points to his being a member of Zionist groups. Nothing online suggests he has any connection to Armenia or Armenians. Apart from his name, why does Harut think he might be Armenian?

  2. I have met Iranians, Azeris, and others from the region whose names end in -ian. But he could be Armenian. Why should we be surprised that there might be a few Armenians who will do anything for financial gain? A more interesting question is why the Turks would hire his firm. Is there a strategic reason for hiring a firm with an Armenian (maybe) at the helm?

  3. What is truly shameful is making a career out of hatred. We should all be looking to foster understanding and reconciliation not further stoke the flames of undying enmity. Grow up (its never too late) and come out of your hate filled silo. It really is worth it, you may find that you will leave a much more enduring and positive legacy than the very sad one you are engaged in.

    • avatar modern armenian // November 17, 2017 at 10:46 am //

      I agree with you, have your people return back to armenians what belongs to us, land, cash, and other property, and offer an honest heart felt apology, and then we can reconcile

  4. avatar History with Hagop // November 16, 2017 at 1:41 am // Reply

    Despite the name, it seems he is not Armenian. Funny, he even has a wikipedia article. It states there that not only is he a Jew, but also a Zionist hardliner. This means that not only is he not Armenian, he is our enemy by default. The wiki info is most likely factual. Looks like “Turkey chose the right person”…

    But I found a quote by him from 2010 about the Israeli-Turkish Mavi Marmara incident:

    “The fact that the UN saw fit to hold an emergency security council session to condemn Israel is nothing new,” said Ronn Torossian, a renowned New York publicist and a board member of RAJE. “It is cesspool of Jew hatred and what these so called peace activists on the Turkish vessel pulled off was nothing short of a cleverly devised anti-Semitic lynching” he added.”

  5. Ronn Torossian’s mother is Jewish, not Armenian.

  6. His Father is Armenian Mother is american Jew, Long Story

  7. He carries an Armenian name but doubtful he has Armenian blood.

  8. Who, other than Harut Sassounian, is claiming Ronn Torossian is Armenian? Even a casual search reveals he is a Jewish extremist, with some of the sources for this going back a decade, such as https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2008/10/the-jewish-extremists-behind-quot-obsession-quot/9006/ Mr Sassounian need to find better excuses for article writing than first making an absurd suggestion (that Torossian is Armenian) and then asking an absurd question, does his actions mean he is is not a “real” Armenian. Sassunian’s ideology that there are some Armenians who are “real Armenians” and some who are not should be more troubling here than news that a for-hire hack is writing whatever his paymaster Erdogan asks him to write.

    • Harut Sassounian needs no defense from me, but if you think he is disloyal to Armenians, or works for Erdogan, you are uninformed, which is surely the kindest thing I can think to say about you. Maybe you work at a Turkish troll farm.

    • avatar Harut Sassounian // November 17, 2017 at 3:43 pm //

      Steve,
      Please do not distort my words and read my column again, particularly the title. I did not question if Torossian is a “real” Armenian, but is he “really” an Armenian? There is a big difference between these two questions.

    • However, Harut, nobody except you appears to be asking the “is he” question, so any difference in meaning between “is he a real Armenian?” and “is he really Armenian?” makes no difference regarding whether the headline is appropriate. Detailing Torossian’s connections and employers and the various dirty little relationships these lobbying firms have is very valuable and needs to be done – and thank you for doing it – but why diminish that value with this silly “is he really Armenian” hook? JDA – I was obviously NOT accusing the author of the article of working for Erdogan, I was saying the SUBJECT of the article, Ronn Torossian, is.

    • Ronn Torossian’s father is ARMENIAN.

      This is well-known in the New York community.

      His mother is Jewish.

      They are divorced.

      So Harut Sassounian has good reason to write what he did. Apologize to Harut.

    • avatar History with Hagop // November 20, 2017 at 10:48 pm //

      I didn’t feel that Mr “Sassunian’s ideology that there are some Armenians who are “real Armenians” and some who are not”, to be concerning at all, whether Mr Sassounian meant it that way or not. He clearly stated he didn’t and you still won’t let go of this nonsense and waste of time making baseless charges.

      How about if a person had no Armenian blood, and next changed their name to an Armenian one for the purpose of deception. Would that then merit such a question, or are you one of those now claiming “one can be an Armenian if they just think it” type of deal?

      In case you didn’t realize it, this article posed this question, because it is unfathomable that an ‘Armenian’, would start working for Erdogan to disseminate his propaganda who very clearly denies the Genocide and that can potentially be very concerning. You are attempting to turn this into something else.

  9. Frankly, if I were Armenian, I’d concern myself more with why “real” Armenians are investing in Bulgaria while their own country is being sold off to foreign “investors.” http://hetq.am/eng/news/83109/bulgarian-businesses-and-real-estate-owned-by-armenian-officials-and-their-relatives.html

    • I read the article and see no proof of wrongdoing. Despite the fact that Armenia will benefit if the investments were made within, the obligation of any corporate board of governors is to it’s shareholders.

      There is nothing wrong or illegal about investing in countries where it makes economic sense.

      BTW, Gagik Tsarukyan does more for the people of Armenia, philanthrophically that is, than the government. So, trying to cast some shadow on his character is not only untrue, but is slanderous.

      Having said that, if any of these investors have gotten their funds via corrupt practices they should be investigated and prosecuted.

  10. avatar History with Hagop // November 20, 2017 at 11:52 pm // Reply

    This is about patrilineal vs matrilineal Jewish Law.

    According to Jewish Tradition, particularly Orthodox of which Torossian belongs, you are not a “real Jew” unless your mother is. Since this is a racial law based on custom and not a “religious” one, (despite what they may claim), in the past centuries, no one paid attention to this and everyone accepted that this is their law. In today’s age though, this is a racist concept, and brings into question the religiosity of ‘Judaism’ and merely turns it into an ethnicity with set rules and laws.

    In Reform Judaism, in contrast to Orthodox or Conservative, they are typically left-leaning, democrat party voting majority in the USA. This is why some people find it confusing why the majority of Jews are irate that Trump became president, despite that Trump’s family is now related to Jews. Well, if one understands the difference between Reform and Orthodox Jews, it starts to make sense. (It’s interesting that Trump’s daughter actually became Orthodox, an exception to the rule, if you are prominent enough I guess.)

    Somewhere along the line, Reform Jews started to see that they are losing members because their community was not accepting Jews as Jews unless their mother was, and many Jews with non-Jewish mothers resented feeling outcast in the community (this also meant losing about %50 of those Jews marrying outside their race). For this reason, Reform Jews accept the patrilineal line in addition to the matrilineal line. Thus in the case of the Orthodox and Torossian, it is irrelevant who his father is, provided that his mother is Jewish.

    Note: according to my research thus far, the matrilineal law is apparently a random custom, with no Biblical basis. It was merely adopted by an early Rabbi, and in their law, “Rabbinical laws cannot be changed once formulated”. Probably the underlying logic was that this was one form of discouraging Jewish men from marrying non-Jewish women.

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