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HFPA Member Sam Asi Sues Group for Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation

Asi, a Palestinian presenter for BBC Arabic, was placed on probation in February following TheWrap’s report of sexual misconduct claims by three women

Sam Asi, a BBC Arabic journalist and member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who was placed on probation following sexual misconduct accusations against him revealed in an investigation by TheWrap, has sued the HFPA on claims that he himself was the victim of sexual and racist harassment by its members.

In court documents obtained by TheWrap, Asi claims that HFPA violated its own rules and bylaws by placing him on probation via a press release immediately after a Wrap investigation this past February in which three women accused him of sexual misconduct. Asi claims that the organization was required to notify him directly and open an investigation into the allegations against him before placing him on probation.

“The most logical explanation is that the HFPA, under fire in the Los Angeles Times and other media for failing so miserably to keep its house in order, is using the false claims against Dr. Asi as an opportunity to make it appear as if it takes allegations seriously and is changing its culture,” the lawsuit reads.

Among the accusers who spoke to TheWrap include Tianyue Li, a former assistant of Asi’s, who claimed that Asi played pornography in front of her and kissed her without her consent. Wenting “Ting Ting” Xu, an HFPA member who resigned last year in protest, claimed that Asi had spread a rumor that she had performed oral sex on him to gain admission.

Asi, a member of the HFPA since 2010, has denied the claims, saying in the lawsuit that the HFPA has unreasonably delayed their internal investigation despite his cooperation and that he was notified that the scope of the investigation would be expanded based on tweets he made critical of TheWrap editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman, which were “alleged to be anti-semitic.”

In the meantime, he says that the probation has damaged his career as BBC and his newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi have also placed him on probation, forcing him to pay for his own credentials to the Cannes Film Festival.

Asi also says that the organization hasn’t investigated his own claims of sexual harassment and racial abuse by members, accusing three female members of sexually harassing him on separate occasions, though none are named. He also says he has faced repeated racial attacks during his time as a member, including being told by late HFPA President Lorenzo Soria that the reason why he could not get a committee position at the organization is because “membership hated him because he was an ‘angry Arab.'” Soria died in August 2020.

Asi claims that one board member groped him at multiple press events and invited him to her house to teach him how to do “good sex.” A second member is accused of kissing him without his consent at a board member’s birthday party in front of witnesses, while a third is accused of offering to show him a video of her having sex with her boyfriend as instruction.

In addition, Asi says he has faced retaliation by the HFPA for his “attempts to hold it accountable,” including claims that the organization is “weaponizing false sexual misconduct allegations against him.”

A spokesperson for the HFPA said that the organization has not received the lawsuit.

“The HFPA is not in receipt of this suit however our position remains the same that a member has been accused by a third party of significant and serious charges. We have a disciplinary review process involving a comprehensive investigation by an outside firm that all members are subject to,” read a statement. “We will respect the integrity of the investigative process and await its findings before determining what course of action to take.“

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report

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