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

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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 that 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 if either of his parents are 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 if 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 if 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, it was very satisfying 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 due to 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?



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