Explained : How Longtime HFPA Member Philip Berk, Expelled For Racist Email?

Two days after sending an email to his fellow members describing Black Lives Matter as a “racist hate movement” and criticising its co-founder, Patrisse Cullors, for buying a home in Topanga Canyon, Philip Berk, a 44-year member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and an eight-term past president of the organisation that oversees the Golden Globe Awards, was kicked out of the organisation.

The board of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association declared in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon that “Phil Berk is no longer a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association effective immediately.”

The Los Angeles Times obtained a copy of Berk’s Sunday email and said that the 88-year-old South African received a lot of criticism from his fellow members. A member referred to Berk’s email as “racist,” “vile,” and “a thundering disgrace,” and the HFPA’s COO informed Berk that his conduct was “not appropriate.” “I merely intended to highlight the hypocrisy [sic] that engulfs us. I forwarded it as a point of information. I had no hidden motive. I now regret having sent it,” Berk retorted.

In reality, this was Berk’s third offence against the HFPA. He previously took a leave of absence after penning a biography in 2014 called With Signs and Wonders that was critical of the organisation. He was also accused of touching actor Brendan Fraser’s buttocks at a 2003 event by Fraser in 2018.

The Berk scandal occurs when the HFPA is going through a racial existential crisis. According to a February 21 Los Angeles Times report, there are now no Black members among the organization’s 87 voting members. The HFPA promised to improve after receiving criticism from Time’s Up on its Feb. 28 Globes telecast and in subsequent communications. It swiftly hired a diversity expert and, as THR was the first to reveal, even contacted renowned crisis management specialist Judy Smith, who served as the inspiration for Olivia Pope in Scandal. Smith has resigned as a consultant, THR has learned. Additionally, it committed to announcing significant adjustments by May 6 or risk having the HFPA completely cut off by Time’s Up and more than 100 PR firms.

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The HFPA released the following statement on Monday night: “Since its founding, the HFPA has dedicated itself to fostering cross-cultural understanding through film and television. The opinions represented in the article that Mr. Berk circulated are those of the author and in no way, shape, or form, reflect those of the HFPA. The HFPA deems such language and substance to be abhorrent and condemns all forms of racism, discrimination, and hate speech.

NBC, which broadcasts the Golden Globe Awards, and MRC, which owns Dick Clark Productions, the organisation that puts them on, both released statements on Tuesday calling for Berk to be kicked out of the organisation.

NBC issued a statement saying that it “deeply opposes Phil Berk’s actions and is calling for his immediate removal.” “While we still have to wait for the specifics of the HFPA’s planned reform plan, moving quickly on this front is crucial if NBC wants to continue working with the HFPA and the Golden Globes.

We stand in solidarity with our Black coworkers, artists, journalists, and executives who have been wronged or ignored by the HFPA, said MRC. The racist comments that a member yesterday spread disgusts us. The HFPA’s past pronouncements about strengthening their organisation with regard to concerns of racial reform and justice gave us hope. The HFPA has officially said that it is moving in a certain direction, but this member’s actions and remarks contradict that.

We are requesting that the HFPA take swift and firm action against this member, the MRC statement continued. We outlined our expectations to the organisation earlier this year, and we’ve been working to influence and support the advancement that so many of us desire. We are really disappointed by this most recent development, but we are still optimistic that progress is being made and that a clear, practical strategy will be revealed. We want to reaffirm in front of the public that the May 6th plan must specify genuine change.

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