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September 28, 2014 10:20 pm

Top PR Firm Claims No Policy on Israel After Signing Muslim Brotherhood-Tied Client

avatar by Dave Bender

Anti-government demonstrations during the 2010-2011 Tunisian uprising.

A major international public relations firm, Burson-Marsteller, in a rejoinder to an oped critical of what the author charged was a refusal to work with Israel, on Friday declared that it had never “had a policy about whether or not to represent Israel.”

Writing in The New York Observer, Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5W Public Relations contended that, “the firm refused to work with the democratic nation of Israel to help the tiny Jewish state improve its image.”

The firm was, however, open to being “hired to improve the foreign image of Tunisia’s Ennahda Party, the Muslim Brotherhood of Tunisia. They will ‘arrange meetings between Ennahda representatives and stakeholders’ and provide Ennahda ‘support on media and stakeholder outreach in advance of upcoming elections.’ In sum, this Washington, D.C. PR firm will not work with Israel – but will represent Tunisia’s Muslim Brotherhood Party,” Torossian fumed.

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“In turning down a potential $3.5 million engagement, Sigurd Grytten, the CEO and Managing Director of Burson-Marsteller’s Norway office, told the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naæringsliv, ‘We will not deliver tender to such a project… we are running a commercial venture. If we accept this project, this will create a great amount of negative reactions … Israel is a particularly controversial project.’

“Representing Israel,” Torossian posited, referencing other morally questionable clients of the PR firm, “apparently is worse than offending American Indians, anonymous smears, and shady defense contractors involved in extra-curricular killing.”

However, arguing in a blog post that Torossian’s opinion piece “was not accurate,” the firm pointed out that the conversation with Grytten took place in 2011, and that “the employee he refers to no longer works at Burson-Marsteller and has not worked at the firm since 2012.”

Claiming that Grytten “was never a member of the firm’s global leadership,” the firm said that “His sole role was to head our office in Norway. That employee, in fact, was responding to a hypothetical question from a journalist in 2011 about representing Israel in Norway.”

“He answered hypothetically on his own without consulting anyone in the leadership of the firm, and his answer does not reflect the policy of this firm,” the company asserted.

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