PR executive Ronn Torossian has earned a reputation as a hard-charging pro who built his own prominent firm from scratch.
But as Torossian cozies up as a confidant to Mayor-elect Eric Adams, some Democratic operatives are worried about the closetful of skeletons in his allegedly sketchy past. Not only is Torossian’s firm, 5WPR, the longtime US PR agency for international adult site Pornhub, which has been accused of the sexploitation of children and posting rape videos, he also owns a PR site that he secretly uses to promote his business and take down his enemies, sources told The Post.
In the past few months, Torossian has been helping plan events for Adams, including a victory party at exclusive members’ club Zero Bond in Noho on Nov. 2. On Saturday, after a Daily Beast report started asking questions about Torossian’s “toxic” persona, Adams canceled 10 fundraising events, including a second party at Zero Bond to be hosted by Torossian on Monday.
Some political operatives said Adams is trying to distance himself from Torossian without calling him out directly.
“No one cancels political fundraisers unless they have to,” said Ken Frydman, who has been involved in political campaigns since the early ’90s and now runs the Source Communications public relations firm. “Looks like Eric Adams had to cancel 10 fundraisers because of Ronn Torossian.”
A longtime Democratic consultant, who asked not to be named, said the optics are terrible and Adams should “move away from Torossian as quickly as possible. If you are an ex-cop, you should not be in a private club at night in a room with someone who represents a porn site.
“Even de Blasio never did that,” the Democratic operative added.
An Adams spokesman told The Post the fundraisers were canceled because the mayor-elect has raised $1.5 million and no longer needs money to pay for his inauguration events on Jan. 1. A source in the Adams camp said the mayor-elect was not aware of Torossian’s work with Pornhub and that Torossian is not involved in any policy decisions.
Last October, 50 women reached a settlement in a suit claiming they were duped into filming videos for GirlsDoPorn, a site owned by Pornhub. At least six people were charged by US attorneys with sex trafficking connected to the now-defunct GirlsDoPorn and one was sentenced to 20 years in prison earlier this year.
“Few companies have done more to undermine the American family,” Jon Schewppe, director of policy and government affairs at the American Principles Project, said of Pornhub in an interview with the American Conservative in September 2020. He also blasted Torossian’s involvement as the PR agent. “Anyone on the right who cares — or even claims to care — about protecting the family should immediately sever all ties with this individual.”
in February, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) filed a class-action lawsuit representing two underage girls whose videos were used by Pornhub’s parent company, MindGeek. One victim said she was just 16 when she was allegedly drugged and raped while filmed by a man in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The second victim claimed she was forced to participate “in the creation of sexually explicit videos that included adults engaging in sex acts with her,” according to a statement from NCOSE.
NCOSE said that in neither case did MindGeek attempt to ascertain the identity or age of the alleged victims before loading the videos onto Pornhub and other platforms.
Torossian told The Post 5WPR is still the rep for Pornhub but declined to comment on the suits. Asked about his relationship with the mayor-elect, he said he “has spoken to Adams since [the] Daily Beast” piece came out, but would not elaborate further.
One vehicle Torossian uses to burnish his image is Everything-PR.com, a site that purports to be an independent news site for the PR world, but which regularly bashes his competitors and praises his clients. It also plugs his own firm, whose logo is prominently displayed on an ad on the website’s home page.
Not long after he purchased the site, a story on the best PR crisis management firms appeared, praising his own firm and stating that “there’s no more aggressive crisis PR in the US than 5WPR.”
The victory party Torossian organized for Adams at Zero Bond also featured prominently the next day on Everything-PR.com, which gushed: “About 125 business leaders, celebrities and supporters nibbled on sliders and sushi as they hailed Adams for his pro-business stance.”
A 2018 article about PR rival Howard Rubenstein, who died in 2020, called him a “legend” but said “there’s no question that the Rubenstein family will take a fall as there’s no heir apparent — and plenty of New York City PR firms wanting to take their clients.”
Everything-PR.com was founded by Mihaela Lica Butler in 2009 and her husband, Phil Butler, served as its editor in chief until it was sold to Torossian in 2014, Phil Butler told The Post. Shortly after the sale, the bylines of Phil, Mihaela and all the writers were erased from their stories and replaced with made-up names, Butler told The Post.
Butler said his name as editor was replaced with the name “Richard D. Pace” and all his wife’s bylines were changed to “Archie Obrien.”
There is zero social media footprint of anyone named Richard D. Pace, Archie Obrien, Jason Tannahill or any of the others listed as the bylined “writers” of the pieces now on the site. Numerous emails I sent to Everything-PR requesting an interview with Pace over the course of two years have never been returned.
“Changing the names of the authors on thousands of stories, some of which were iconic at the time,” Butler said, is “a journalistic ‘no-no.’ ”
Asked why he would remove and change legitimate bylines, Torossian told The Post: “It is incorrect to say Ronn Torossian owns Everything-PR.com.” (Ownership of the site is listed with a Tempe, Ariz., registry firm called “DOMAINS BY PROXY, LLC” which masks ownership for corporations or individuals who do not want their identity disclosed.)
One article supposedly written by “Archie Obrien” and originally published on October 27, 2013, is a glowing profile of Torossian, describing him as a “crisis PR legend” and “a New York PR super hero.”
“There is no such person as Archie Obrien,” Butler told me. “I wrote this article. This was when Ronn and I were on friendly terms.
“Torossian only showed his true colors to me after my wife sold him the media outlet,” he added. “I helped him as I would anybody I thought was a friend.”
Torossian, 47, was born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx and attended the elite Stuyvesant High School before graduating from SUNY Albany. At 13, he joined Betar, a right-leaning Zionist student organization, and became the organization’s national president during his college years.
After graduation, he worked for two mid-size PR firms before striking out on his own with the launch of 5WPR in 2003. Among his early clients was the Lukid party of Israel. In the US, his past client list is a mishmash of media, political and entertainment figures, including the Eric Trump Foundation, rappers such as Sean “P Diddy” Combs, the controversial Olivet University run by fundamentalist Christian minister David Jang, and recently fired CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, whom Torossian briefly repped as a crisis manager. (Torossian said he has distanced himself from Olivet University recently. “I haven’t heard from Olivet in quite some time,” he said.)
Torossian’s rise was rapid but he had a pugnacious approach from the start. In a 2006 Ad Age story, he made the trade magazine’s 40 under 40 list, calling many of his PR rivals “antiquated” and “brain dead.”
“ ‘Genteel’ is not often used to describe me,” he told Ad Age at the time.
Torossian met Adams when he was Brooklyn borough president and the PR exec began connecting him to tech, political and entertainment figures in Manhattan, sources close to Adams told The Post.
But, despite his elite connections, some employees who fall out of his favor or quit his company said he has a rough style and raging temper, according to multiple sources. One former top executive who has left 5WPR said he was lured by a big salary, but almost immediately after joining, Torossian said he was going to have to cut his wage.
“We were frequently at odds and almost came to blows in a conference room shortly after joining,” said the executive, who did not want to give his name because he said he feared retaliation.
More than one clash with a top executive has landed in court.
One infamous story, which first appeared in the gossip site Gawker and resurfaced in the Daily Beast article, involved a lawsuit Torossian filed against his former VP of HR, Melissa Weiss, who he claimed violated her contract. She claimed she was fired because she had accused 5WPR of illegal labor practices. An email Torossian sent to Weiss in March 2008, on the the day the suit was filed, contained the subject line: “YOU STUPID C–T.” It said: “You will pay for the rest of your life for trying to ruin my business…Let’s see if you ever work again.”
Weiss did not respond to a request for comment, but Torossian told the Daily Beast, “It’s unfortunate you’re choosing to rely upon 15-year-old, untrue tabloid reports to form your story.”
Another suit in 2013 pitted Torossian against Cynthia Irons, a PR veteran of 17 years when she joined 5WPR as a vice president of tech. According to the suit, Irons was still using her maiden name of Greenberg when she was hired before switching to her married name a few months later.
But after Torossian found out Irons was not Jewish, he appeared “shocked and disturbed,” according to the suit, telling Irons: “I saw the name on your paycheck was Irons, but I hired a Greenberg.”
“Immediately following her meeting with Torossian, her productive and cordial working relationship with him disintegrated into one that was hostile and demeaning,” according to the lawsuit. “Irons went from being a valued employee to one that Torossian could not stand to be around because she was not Jewish.”
Torossian denied in court filings that he made those remarks. The parties came to an out-of-court settlement and the suit was withdrawn, court records show. Torossian said due to the settlement, he is unable to comment on the matter.
Karen Hinton, a former press aide to Andrew Cuomo when he was at HUD and one of the first to come forward with accusations of sexual harassment against the now-ex-governor, said Adams working with Torossian sends all the wrong signals.
“It is important for a new mayor to surround himself with people who are well-liked, trustworthy and well-respected,” Hinton said. Torossian, she added, “doesn’t seem to have any of that.”
“We don’t need anyone taking the mayor’s mind off what is important as the city steers out of crisis.”
Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death
Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.
Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.
Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.
Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”
Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.
ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”
Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.
Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.
Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”
Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence
MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.
But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.
“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’
McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.
Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.
Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.
That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .
When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.
Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”
Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.
“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.
“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’
The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.
Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.
But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.
“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’
The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.
No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.
“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’
Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers
When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.
Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.
This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.
The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.
Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.
To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.
There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.
The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.
Baby steps, though.
Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.
Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.
Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.
Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.
And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.
Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.
Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.
Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.
“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.
On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.
That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.
That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.
It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.
If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.
The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.
“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’
A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.
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