The New York Film Critics Circle has apologized to Fox Searchlight and director Steve McQueen over an outburst aimed at the director by a NYFCC member during Monday night’s awards ceremony, even as the offending critic claims he was misquoted.
“On behalf of the New York Film Critics Circle, I apologize sincerely for the crass bit of heckling Mr. McQueen encountered,” outgoing NYFCC chair Josh Rothkopf wrote to the studio. “I’m mortified to learn that this was from one of our own members. We are taking disciplinary action.”
The member in question is NYFCC’s most infamous critic, Armond White, a writer for CityArts who is best-known for hating what other critics love and loving what they hate, but who also has a history of being a disruptive presence at the group’s awards dinners.
When McQueen took the stage on Monday night to accept his best-director award after what was reportedly an eloquent speech by Harry Belafonte, a number of people in the room reported hearing a disruption from the vicinity of White’s table.
While McQueen did not respond and most people in the room couldn’t hear what was being said, a Variety reporter seated near White reported that the African-American critic yelled, “You’re an embarrassing doorman and garbage man! F— you! Kiss my ass.”
Others reported that he also yelled “White liberal bulls—!” at the stage during McQueen’s remarks about “12 Years a Slave,” which White had ripped in a review stating that the film “belongs to the torture porn genre with ‘Hostel,’ ‘The Human Centipede’ and the ‘Saw’ franchise but it is being sold (and mistaken) as part of the recent spate of movies that pretend ‘a conversation about race.'”
In an email on Tuesday to Indiewire’s John Anderson, White blasted “the misreporting and the repetition of lies,” but declined to answer when Anderson asked him if he yelled at McQueen.
“Wrong question, John,” he wrote, according to Anderson. “I was not in a position or vicinity to yell at McQueen. It was talk among my tablemates. The Variety and Wire lines are outright misquotes and lies. You might want to ask why the gutter bloggers continue to misquote and distort the event and NYFCC history.”
While White apparently feels that the “talk among my tablemates” was not meant for McQueen’s ears and not as offensive as reported, Slate critic Dana Stevens tweeted that the accounts were “sadly accurate.”
Stevens, who was sitting at White’s table, also said that White and a cohort were heckling throughout the entire event, with White as ringleader.
Rothkopf clearly felt that transgressions had occurred, writing in an email to members on Tuesday morning, “It amazes me that we have members who are so self-serving, they would sacrifice the decorum of our group — both in public and during our confidential meetings — solely to satisfy their own egos.
“I can’t believe we need to draft rules of conduct for adults, but apparently we do.”
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This is not the first time White has been a disruptive presence at NYFCC’s awards ceremonies. Last year, he reportedly yelled “f— you!” at presenter Michael Moore. And when he hosted the event in 2011 (he was NYFCC chair at the time), he was hostile to a number of the winners, to the point where “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky took the stage and said, “Keep it up, because you give us another reason not to read the New York Press.” (White wrote for the Press at the time.)
So far, the NYFCC has not given any indication of what the “disciplinary action” aimed at White might be, though suggestions on social media seem torn between “kick him out of the group” and “let him stay but never invite him to an event again.”
The contrarian critic has served as chair of the organization three times, and he clearly relishes that role: His Twitter handle is “@3xchair.”
Even after the apology went out, the home page of the NYFCC website included two White stories in its “Latest Headlines” section, which features links to three recent stories by its members.
One of them linked to a review of the critically maligned “Grudge Match,” which White called “the most purely entertaining movie released during the Christmas season (‘American Hustle’ excepted),” and mocked critics who made up their Top 10 lists before seeing it.
Apart from his public behavior, White is known for being one of the only critics to have slammed movies like “Toy Story 3,” “District 9” and “There Will Be Blood,” while praising “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” and Adam Sandler‘s “Jack and Jill.”