As the Hollywood Foreign Press Association continues to face scrutiny for its lack of Black members, former president Philip Berk has come under fire over a leaked email recently sent to members with a post describing Black Lives Matter as a “hate movement.”
The HFPA board issued a statement Monday night in response to Berk’s email to members, saying it “finds such language and content unacceptable.”
“Since its inception, the HFPA has dedicated itself to bridging cultural connections and creating further understanding of different backgrounds through film and TV,” the statement read. “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.”
Berk’s email, which was obtained by TheWrap and first reported on by the Los Angeles Times, appears to be a copy of an article on conservative website FrontPage Mag titled “BLM Goes Hollywood,” which criticized BLM founder Patrisse Cullors for buying a $1.4 million house in Topanga Canyon, California. “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.
HFPA board members in the email thread chastised Berk, who served eight terms as the organization’s president, with one member calling him a “thundering disgrace.”
Gregory Goeckner, current COO and general counsel for HFPA, wrote to Berk: “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.”
“I only intended to illustrate the hypocricy [sic] that engulfs us I forwarded it as a point of information I had no hidden agenda I now regret having sent it,” Berk responded.
The HFPA’s scandal-ridden year began just before the Golden Globes when the Times published an expose outlining millions of dollars in payments sent to members as well as noting that none of the organization’s 87 members are Black despite the rise of the #OscarsSoWhite movement since 2015. TheWrap has since reported that the HFPA also denied requests to hold press conferences for “Bridgerton,” “Girls Trip,” and “Queen & Slim,” three projects featuring Black casts and directors that all failed to receive Golden Globe nominations.
In response to TheWrap’s report, filmmaker Ava DuVernay shared her own experience at an HFPA press conference for her Central Park Five miniseries “When They See Us,” which she said had minimal attendance from members.
“Less than 20 of them showed up. Based on the quality of their questions, I jokingly asked ‘Have any of you seen the series?’ Crickets,” she tweeted. “More came in the room when the pix were to be taken, at which time two peddled their scripts.”
The HFPA has pledged to have at least 13 Black members by the end of the year and to release further diversity reforms by May 6. Shaun Harper, professor of race, gender and LGBTQ issues at the USC Marshall School of Business has been hired as a diversity advisor while an outside law firm has been brought in to review the organization’s bylaws.
“Since its inception, the HFPA has dedicated itself to bridging cultural connections and creating further understanding of different backgrounds through film and TV,” the HFPA said in a statement responding to Berk’s email. “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.”