Globes group ousts member over his Black Lives Matter email
Golden Globes’ ex-president is FIRED from HFPA board after sending members article that compared BLM movement to Charles Manson
- The Hollywood Foreign Press Association said in an email Tuesday that Phil Berk was no longer a member after more than four decades with the organization
- The decision comes just hours after NBC – which telecasts and pays for the Globes – condemned Berk’s actions and called for his ‘immediate expulsion’
- Berk sent an email to members sharing an article from FrontPage Mag Sunday
- The article accused BLM of ‘carrying on’ Manson’s mission to ‘start a race war’
- HFPA issued a statement saying it ‘condemns all forms of racism, discrimination and hate speech’ before announcing his ousting from the board Tuesday
- But the HFPA was rocked by further turmoil Tuesday as its newly appointed experts in ‘diversity and inclusion’ and crisis management both resigned
- Shaun Harper said in a resignation letter he was stepping down after learning about the group’s ‘deep systemic and reputational challenges’
- Crisis ‘fixer’ Judy Smith also walked away from the HFPA Tuesday
- Sources said that the HFPA’s longtime PR firm Sunshine Sachs and its law firm Ropes & Gray LLP are also considering dropping it as a client amid the scandal
- The saga marks just the latest controversy for the HFPA after it recently came under fire for not having a black member in more than 20 years
The organization behind the Golden Globes has fired one of its former presidents from its board over an email that compared Black Lives Matter to mass murderer Charles Manson, as two experts brought on to drive ‘transformational change’ in the embattled entity have quit amid the scandal.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) said in an email Tuesday that Phil Berk, an 88-year-old member who served eight terms as HFPA president, was no longer a member after more than four decades with the organization.
The decision comes just hours after NBC – which telecasts and pays for the Globes – condemned Berk’s actions and called for his ‘immediate expulsion.’
Berk came under fire after he shared an article from FrontPage Mag with the association’s members, staff, general counsel and chief operating officer Sunday that accused BLM of ‘carrying on’ Manson’s mission to ‘start a race war’.
The HFPA issued a statement saying it ‘condemns all forms of racism, discrimination and hate speech’ and slamming Berk’s email as ‘unacceptable’ before later announcing his ousting from the board Tuesday.
But the HFPA was rocked by further turmoil Tuesday as its newly appointed experts in diversity and inclusion and crisis management both resigned from their roles in the wake of the scandal citing the organization’s ‘systemic challenges’.
The saga marks just the latest controversy for the HFPA after it recently came under fire for not having a black member in more than 20 years.
The organization behind the Golden Globes has fired one of its former presidents from its board over an email that compared Black Lives Matter to mass murderer Charles Manson, as two experts brought on to drive ‘transformational change’ in the embattled entity have quit amid the scandal. Phil Berk on stage at the 68th Annual Golden Globes in 2011
The HFPA’s newly appointed experts in diversity and inclusion and crisis management both also resigned in the wake of the scandal. Diversity expert Shaun Harper (left) said in a resignation letter he was stepping down over the group’s ‘deep systemic and reputational challenges’ while crisis ‘fixer’ Judy Smith (right) also walked away Tuesday
‘Effective immediately, Phil Berk is no longer a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,’ the HFPA said in a statement Tuesday.
NBC had called for the entity to take ‘swift action’ to reprimand Berk over the email.
‘NBC strongly condemns Phil Berk’s actions and is calling for his immediate expulsion,’ NBC said in a statement.
‘While we continue to await the details of HFPA’s upcoming plan for reform, swift action on this front is an essential element for NBC to move forward with the HFPA and the Golden Globes.’
The show’s producer, Dick Clark Productions, also demanded his removal in a private letter sent to the HFPA Monday night.
The Hollywood Reporter then revealed Tuesday night that Shaun Harper, who was hired as a diversity strategist advisor just last month, and crisis ‘fixer’ Judy Smith had both walked away from the HFPA Tuesday.
Harper said in a resignation letter seen by the outlet that he was initially optimistic when he joined the organization, but felt compelled to step down after learning about the group’s ‘deep systemic and reputational challenges.’
He said he ‘no longer has confidence’ he could bring about ‘transformational change’ in the embattled organization and his ‘unwavering commitment to the racial and gender equity issues’ meant he could no longer work with the organization.
‘Having now learned more about the Association’s deep systemic and reputational challenges, I no longer have confidence in our ability to collaboratively deliver the transformational change that the industry and people in it whom I deeply respect are demanding of you,’ said Harper, who is a professor of racial, gender and LGBTQ issues at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.
‘My serious, unwavering commitment to the racial and gender equity issues on which I work every day make it impossible for me to continue serving in a consulting capacity with the HFPA,’ he continued.
His decision to quit came after he met with representatives of Time’s Up, including Ava DuVernay and Shonda Rhimes, and the PR firms who last month warned the HFPA of a boycott if it doesn’t tackle its diversity challenges.
Harper was reportedly criticized in the meeting that his aims so far do not go far enough.
Berk shared an article from a right-wing website with the association’s members, staff and general counsel Sunday which hit out at BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors (pictured) and compared BLM to C
Manson (1969 appearing for his arraignment) formed a cult – the Manson Family – which wanted to start a race war in the 1960s. The Manson Family murdered seven people in two horrific attacks on homes in LA in August of 1969
Last month, the organization vowed to add 13 new black members after it emerged there had been no black members in more than two decades.
Meanwhile, famed ‘fixer’ Judy Smith of crisis management firm Smith & Company also quit Tuesday, with the Hollywood Reporter revealing the Berk saga was the final straw.
The crisis firm was also brought on board just over a month ago but tensions had already flared since then, with the advisers said to be frustrated at the organization’s unwillingness to listen to advice and take action to tackle its problems.
The unraveling could accelerate further with sources telling the outlet that the HFPA’s longtime PR firm Sunshine Sachs and its law firm Ropes & Gray LLP are also considering dropping it as a client.
In Sunday’s email, seen by the Los Angeles Times, Berk shared what appeared to be an article titled ‘BLM Goes Hollywood’ that had been posted on FrontPage Mag on April 12.
The article hit out at BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors after reports surfaced this month that she had accrued a $3 million property empire of four homes in recent years.
The piece especially took issue with her recent purchase of $1.4 million home in a largely white neighborhood in Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles, claiming it is ‘ideal for ‘quietly contemplating cross-canyon vistas framed by mature trees’ or the next town your hate group is going to burn.’
The purchase, the article contended, came one year after ‘the hate group’s race rioters burned buildings and terrorized communities.’
It then goes on to accuse BLM, the social movement protesting against racist violence against black people, of ‘carrying on Manson’s work.’
‘The house is down the road from one of the homes involved in the Manson murders which seems only appropriate since Manson wanted to start a race war. And Black Lives Matter is carrying on Manson’s work,’ says the post.
Manson formed a cult – the Manson Family – which wanted to start a race war in the 1960s.
The article blasted Cullors’ recent purchase of a $1.4 million home in Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles (above), one year after it said ‘the hate group’s race rioters burned buildings and terrorized communities’
The Manson Family murdered seven people in two horrific attacks on homes in LA in August of 1969.
The article also goes on to slam Cullors and BLM for their apparent ties to Hollywood, claiming the ‘racist hate movement was always an entertainment industry production.’
The day after the FrontPageMag article was posted online, Cullors released a statement on Instagram blasting a ‘false and defamatory article’ circulating about her. There were several articles and news stories circulating at that point, so it’s not clear what she was referring to.
‘This effort to discredit and harass me and my family is not new nor is it acceptable. It has taken away from where the focus should be – ending white supremacy,’ she wrote.
Meanwhile, Berk’s email sparked a backlash among some HFPA members – with Chief Operating Officer Gregory Goeckner branding it ‘deeply offensive’ and member Rui Coimbra saying his ‘equating the Black Lives Matter moment to the Charles Manson murderous gang’ is ‘racist’ in the heated email chain that followed.
‘As a former HFPA President and still a strong and influential voice in the group, this is not the [type] of information you should be disseminating to HFPA members,’ wrote Coimbra, according to the LA Times.
‘Please remove me from any racist email you wish to send to the membership. Dr. Harper has been notified, here, that you are equating the Black Lives Matter moment to the Charles Manson murderous gang.’
Goeckner agreed and insisted the former president not send content like that in future.
‘Phil – it is not appropriate to circulate material such as this, which many members and staff find deeply offensive, to all members and staff as though it is a matter of Association business,’ he wrote.
FrontPage Mag’s April 12 article (above) accused BLM of ‘carrying on’ mass murderer Manson’s mission to ‘start a race war’
‘Please do not circulate this type of material again.’
Another board member Luca Celada compared the circulation of the ‘vile rhetoric’ to sharing the anti-Semitic hoax text ‘The Protocols of Learned Elders of Zion’ that inspired Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’.
‘We might as well have circulated the Protocols of the of the Elders Zion. [sic] The vile rhetoric contained in this screed is simply unacceptable,’ Celada wrote.
‘In our association or anywhere.’
But some leaped to Berk’s defense, with member Noemia Young demanding people stop ‘calling everyone and everything racist.’
‘I think that what we need to do is be more tolerant of everyone’s opinions. Stop calling everyone and everything racist!’ Young wrote, per the LA Times.
‘Isn’t that what people who don’t know anything about us are accusing us of?’
Berk sought to explain his actions, replying to the heated email chain that: ‘I only intended to illustrate the hypocricy that engulfs us I forwarded it as a point of information I had no hidden agenda I now regret having sent it.’
The day after the article was posted online, Cullors released a statement on Instagram blasting a ‘false and defamatory article’ circulating about her
This sparked a spat between the 88-year-old and his alleged ‘sworn enemies’, with member Patricia Danaher branding him a ‘thundering disgrace’ and Husam ‘Sam’ Asi saying ‘he fact that you’re not recognizing the gravity of your statement is disturbing.’
Berk continued to refuse to back down however, firing over email that ‘I’m hearing from my sworn enemies. No surprise.’
The HFPA said in a statement that Berk’s comments and the article do not represent the ‘views and values’ of the organization.
‘Since its inception, the HFPA has dedicated itself to bridging cultural connections and creating further understanding of different backgrounds through film and TV,’ it said.
‘The views expressed in the article circulated by Mr. Berk are those of the author of the article and do not – in any way shape or form – reflect the views and values of the HFPA.
‘The HFPA condemns all forms of racism, discrimination and hate speech and finds such language and content unacceptable.’
This isn’t the first time South African-born Berk has found himself at the center of controversy during his more than 40 years’ tenure as a HFPA member.
Hollywood star Brendan Fraser accused the South African native of assaulting him.
Fraser told GQ magazine in 2018 about an alleged incident at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2003 where he said Berk groped his buttocks.
Berk’s (pictured at California State University in 2017) email sparked a heated exchange with COO Gregory Goeckner branding it ‘deeply offensive’ and member Rui Coimbra calling it ‘racist’
‘His left hand reaches around, grabs my ass cheek, and one of his fingers touches me in the taint. And he starts moving it around,’ Fraser said in the interview.
The actor told how he was left traumatized following the incident, saying: ‘I felt ill. I felt like a little kid.’
The actor’s publicist then sent a letter to the HFPA condemning its longtime influential member’s actions.
When the allegations surfaced in 2018, the HFPA vowed to launch an investigation and insisted it was ‘previously unaware’ of the incident.
Berk apologized in a letter to Fraser but said Fraser’s allegations were a ‘total fabrication’ and that the encounter was a joke.
Fraser spoke out later that year to slam the HFPA’s handling of the allegations, saying the organization would not share the full findings of its probe with him and had asked him to issue a joint statement in which the HFPA wished to describe the incident as ‘a joke and not as a sexual advance.’
This scandal came four years after Berk drew outrage from other HFPA members over the release of his controversial memoir Signs And Wonders in which he took shots at fellow members and celebrities involved in the Golden Globes.
In 2018, Hollywood star Brendan Fraser (pictured in 2014) accused Berk of groping his buttocks at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2003. Fraser later condemned the HFPA’s handling of the allegations which Berk dismissed as a ‘joke’ and ‘total fabrication’
The then-president took a six month leave of absence from the organization amid the backlash over the book’s release but went on to be re-elected HFPA president for four more years afterward.
Meanwhile, the latest controversy surrounding Berk and the HFPA comes at a time when the organization’s lack of diversity and governance is under the spotlight.
The scrutiny came about in February following a damning report by the LA Times that showed the prolific industry entity had zero black journalists among its 87 current members and that calls to hire a diversity expert to address the issue amid George Floyd protests last year were shot down.
The probe sparked a social media movement, spearheaded by Time’s Up and black director Ava DuVernay, demanding change and shrouding March’s 78th annual Golden Globes Awards in controversy.
Last month, the group vowed to make ‘transformational’ changes including hiring a diversity expert Harper to help the organization tackle the issues and hiring third-party law firm to review its policies.
The organization will also introduce mandatory training on unconscious bias, anti-racism and sexual harassment for every member, it said.
The HFPA has been mired in controversy this year following a damning report by the LA Times that showed it has had no black members in more than 20 years. The entity has vowed ‘transformational change’ and said it will announce reforms by May 5
It also vowed to engage in outreach work to try to recruit black and underrepresented talent through internship, mentorship and scholarship programs.
But the group’s pledge to reform itself instantly drew skepticism from Time’s Up, which cast doubt about the commitment to fix issues it has ‘ignored for decades’.
Time’s Up president and CEO Tina Tchen questioned its sudden pledge and warned the ‘clock is ticking’.
A group of 100 PR firms also applied pressure on the organization threatening to cut off access to celebrities unless the HFPA increased black membership.
The HFPA responded by promising to increase its black membership from zero to 13 percent.
The HFPA, which is the organizing committee behind the Golden Globes and also decides the winners, has vowed to announce a full set of reforms by May 6.
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