The beleaguered organisation that runs the Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, has moved quickly to expel its eight-time former president, Philip Berk, two days after he circulated an article to members that described the Black Lives Matter group as a “racist hate movement.”
The HFPA has, in the past, been notoriously secretive, covering up the suspension of members – such as the Russian Nellee Holmes – but with the international organisation under pressure over its lack of African or Caribbean members, it was quick to act when Mr Berk forwarded what’s believed to have been an article from the conservative website FrontPage Mag.
An email chain, seen by the LA Times, showed that when he was confronted by fellow members, Mr Berk, who’s 88, said he had simply been trying to highlight hypocrisy. He said he had forwarded the article as a point of information, had no hidden agenda and regretted having sent it.
One member, Noemia Young, urged him to “Stop calling everyone and everything racist! Isn’t that what people who don’t know anything about us are accusing us of?”
Another, Patricia Danaher, described Mr Berk as “a thundering disgrace.”
“The fact that you’re not recognizing the gravity of your statement is disturbing,” said Husam Asi, a Palestinian member who had previously accused Mr Berk of calling him a terrorist.
Hours after threats from some of its media partners to withdraw their cooperation, the HFPA board released a statement saying that with immediate effect, Mr Berk was no longer a member. It also 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 was not the first time Philip Berk had been involved in controversy at the HFPA. In 2014, he took a leave of absence after making allegations about the organisation and some of his colleagues in his memoirs. And four years later, he was accused by the actor Brendan Fraser of having sexually assaulted him in 2003 – an allegation he denied.
The latest controversy comes just two weeks before the Association had been due to publish plans to increase its diversity, under the guidance of its newly appointed diversity consultant, Shaun Harper, who has – himself – quit the organisation, amid the row. In a resignation statement seen by The Hollywood Reporter, he said, “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 the people in it whom I deeply respect are demanding of you.”
The film industry newspaper also reported that a crisis management consultant hired by the HFPA to oversee the race row, Judy Smith, has also cut ties with the organisation.