The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is once again under fire for alleged racism, after a former president and current member sent an email to members and staff that referred to Black Lives Matter as a “racist hate movement.” The Los Angeles Times reported that Phil Berk sent the email on April 18, noting that it appeared to be the text of an article criticizing Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors on the conservative website Frontpage Mag. The article, titled “BLM Goes Hollywood,” took issue with Cullors’s involvement in TV production and recent move to Los Angeles’ Topanga Canyon neighborhood, along with other Black Lives Matter co-founders’ work in film and TV. Berk’s email came weeks after the revelation that the HFPA, which puts on the Golden Globes, has zero Black members, which led the group to commit to having at least 13 percent Black membership by next year. The HFPA responded to Berk’s email in a statement, telling the Times, “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.”
The Times further reported that many members have replied to Berk to criticize the email. “The vile rhetoric contained in this screed is simply unacceptable,” Luca Celada, an HFPA board member, replied. The group’s chief operating officer, Gregory Goeckner, told Berk the email was “not appropriate” because “many members and staff find [it] deeply offensive.” Another HFPA member called Berk a “thundering disgrace.” Berk reportedly replied, “I only intended to illustrate the hypocrisy that engulfs us,” adding, “I now regret having sent it.”
Berk had been an infamous member of the HFPA before the email, after actor Brendan Fraser accused Berk of groping his butt at a 2003 HFPA luncheon. After the HFPA found no evidence of wrongdoing in an 2018 investigation, Fraser called for Berk to step down from the group. GQ, which originally reported Fraser’s allegation in a 2018 profile, later reported that the HFPA asked Fraser to co-sign a statement saying, “The evidence supports that it was intended to be taken as a joke and not as a sexual advance.” Now, after Berk’s email, an HFPA source told Variety the group is considering unspecified action against Berk.
Update, 3:50 p.m.: Phil Berk, the former Hollywood Foreign Press Association president who sent an email to members and staff calling Black Lives Matter “racist,” has now been expelled from the group, Variety reported. The HFPA board announced the move after NBC — which airs the Golden Globes, given by the group — reportedly called for Berk’s “immediate expulsion.” “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 network said in an April 20 statement, per Variety.
Update, 7:30 p.m.: Diversity strategist Shaun Harper, who was hired by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association last month as part of their anti-racism efforts, stepped down from his post on Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Times. Neither Harper nor the HFPA has commented on the exit.