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Embattled Film Critic Armond White: I Never Heckled Steve McQueen (Exclusive)

The controversial film critic for the New York City culture review City Arts shares with THR what happened, from his perspective, on Monday night.

Steve McQueen New York Film Critics Circle - H 2014
AP Images
"12 Years a Slave" Director Steve McQueen at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards on Jan. 6, 2014.

On Monday night, at the 69th annual New York Film Critics Circle Awards, Armond White, a well-known film critic for the New York City culture review City Arts and a longtime member and past chairman of the NYFCC, allegedly made disparaging remarks about best director winner Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) as McQueen took the stage. White, who scathingly critiqued 12 Years a Slave in October, has, over the years, written numerous contrarian reviews and occasionally made public remarks that caused many to raise their eyebrows, but the response of outrage to what he is said to have shouted at McQueen, according to Variety -- "You’re an embarrassing doorman and garbage man. F— you. Kiss my ass." -- has taken things to a new level.

NYFCC Chair Joshua Rothkopf has called an emergency meeting to address the incident. It is not clear if NYFCC rules allow the group to expel a member, but sources say that is the desire of many of its members.

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Today, The Hollywood Reporter offered White an opportunity to provide his full and unedited take on what happened and why. That is what follows.

The comments that I supposedly made were never uttered by me or anyone within my earshot. I have been libeled by publications that recklessly quoted unnamed sources that made up what I said and to whom I was speaking. Someone on the podium talked about critics' "passion." Does "passion" only run one-way toward subservience?

The press has accustomed itself to treating me as a bete noir--so much so that eavesdroppers at the event continually misrepresent my behavior, even to the point of repeating such lies as distorting my cheer for Robert De Niro's The Good Shepherd into "heckling" and that I "made Annette Bening cry"--both false allegations. Among some Circle members and media folk, there is personal, petty interest in seeing me maligned. I guess the awards themselves don't matter. It's a shameless attempt to squelch the strongest voice that exists in contemporary criticism.

Right now former NYFCC Chairman Joshua Rothkopf, acting Chairman Stephen Whitty, Karen Durbin, David Denby, Rex Reed, Dana Stevens and others have arranged a Communist-style special "Emergency Meeting" supposedly in the interest of legislating "decorum"--a meeting based entirely upon something that none of them actually heard and one that is really intended to purge me from the Circle. Only David Edelstein, with whom I've had past public disputes, showed the common courtesy to inquire if the rumors were true.

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Did I make sotto voce comments to entertain my five guests? Sure, but nothing intended for others to hear and none correctly "reported." I don't even know what it means to call Steve McQueen a "garbage man" or "doorman" even though the racist implications are obvious. None of this makes sense which is what happens when online journalism reports a malicious lie.

As for the group's craven "Emergency Meeting." I dont care what they decide. It's not a meeting I plan to attend. --Armond White

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg