Tuesday, 23 April, 2024

Golden Globes organisers expels ex-president over Black Lives Matter email

Philip Berk has served eight one-year terms as president of body behind the Golden Globes. Photo - GETTY IMAGES

London, Apr. 21 (BBC): The organisation behind Hollywood's Golden Globe Awards has expelled its former president over an article he shared about Black Lives Matter.

Philip Berk, 88, had been a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) for 44 years and its president for eight years.

In a group email with HFPA members, Berk reportedly shared an article that described BLM as a "racist hate group". He later said he regretted sending the email, the Los Angeles Times reported. He told members he had "forwarded it as a point of information", according to the paper.

The Golden Globes are the most high-profile film awards in the US after the Oscars, but Berk's departure has deepened a crisis at the HFPA. Earlier this year, a scathing LA Times exposé alleged, among other things, that the secretive organisation did not have any black members.

The HFPA, which is made up of almost 90 international journalists based in LA, has vowed to announce substantial reforms in the coming weeks.

Philip Berk pictured with Brad Pitt in 2005. Photo - GETTY IMAGES


"Effective immediately, Phil Berk is no longer a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association," its board said in a statement on Tuesday.

The original email chain, which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times, appeared to show other members calling Berk "racist", "vile", and "a thundering disgrace" after he shared the post. A senior HFPA figure also told him it was "not appropriate" behaviour.

Berk replied that he "only intended to illustrate the hypocrisy that engulfs us", adding: "I forwarded it as a point of information I had no hidden agenda, I now regret having sent it."

The article he shared was heavily critical of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of last summer's protests that were sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer. It also personally criticised one of the co-founders of the BLM movement.

After the email chain came to light, the HFPA said in a statement: "Since its inception, the HFPA has dedicated itself to bridging cultural connections and creating a further understanding of different backgrounds through film and TV.

"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 email was not the first time Berk has caused controversy. He took a leave of absence after writing a 2014 memoir that did not reflect well on the organisation. In 2018, he was accused by Brendan Fraser of groping the actor's buttocks at an event in 2003.


Diversity adviser quits

More than 100 PR firms are said to have threatened to cut off access to their stars unless the HFPA announces major reforms.

But those efforts were dealt another blow after the email chain was made public when Dr Shaun Harper, a University of Southern California professor who was hired to be the HFPA's diversity and inclusion adviser, also stood down, as did crisis management consultant Judy Smith.

The Hollywood Reporter said Dr Harper's proposal to add 13 new black members - which would bring the overall total to 100 - was criticised by many within the organisation, who said the scope of the problem was bigger than he realised.

"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," Harper said in a resignation statement obtained by the publication.