The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization of L.A.-based journalists for outlets headquartered abroad, which hosts the annual Golden Globe Awards, just keeps digging its hole even deeper.
The HFPA has been in hot water ever since a Feb. 21 Los Angeles Times article identified that it currently counts zero Black people among its 87 voting members. Under fire from Time’s Up, the organization vowed — on its Feb. 28 Globes telecast and in subsequent communications — to do better. It quickly retained a diversity specialist and, THR was the first to report, consulted with famed crisis management expert Judy Smith, who inspired Scandal‘s Olivia Pope.
But an L.A. Times report on Monday suggests that some HFPA members still don’t quite “get it.”
Philip Berk, an 88-year-old member and eight-term past president who has previously brought disrepute on the organization via a controversial memoir and when actor Brendan Fraser accused Berk of groping Fraser’s buttocks, sent an email Sunday to his fellow members, as well as the HFPA’s staff and COO, forwarding an article from a right-wing website that slammed Black Lives Matter as a “racist hate movement” and its co-founder, Patrisse Cullors, for purchasing a home in Topanga Canyon.
“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,” the missive says in part. “And Black Lives Matter is carrying on Manson’s work.”
Berk’s comments were quickly and widely condemned on the email chain — one member labeled it “racist,” another “vile” and the COO “not appropriate,” while a third member called Berk “a thundering disgrace” — but the damage was done, as the email was leaked to the Times and quickly went viral.
In a Monday evening statement, the HFPA said: “Since its inception, the HFPA has dedicated itself to bridging cultural connections and creating further understanding of different backgrounds through film and TV. 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.”
As its self-imposed May 5 deadline to announce specific structural changes rapidly approaches, with Time’s Up and more than 100 PR firms waiting to see if they are satisfactory, the HFPA board is reportedly considering taking action to punish Berk.
The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the HFPA canceled a late March meeting it had scheduled with representatives of the the PR firms that sent the letter, which did not endear the organization to the publicists, who expressed their disappointment in an email to their HFPA contact, Helen Hoehne.
On April 9, Hoehne replied, “We would welcome the opportunity to meet with a representative group from the publicists in the hopes of having a productive, honest and solutions oriented conversation.”
This led to the scheduling of a meeting, coordinated by the HFPA’s DEI firm Ropes & Gray, involving representatives of not only the PR firms (Shannon Barr, Jackie Bazan, Cindi Berger, Jessica Kolstad, Megan Moss, Kelly Bush Novak, Marcel Pariseau, Ivette Rodriguez and Meredith Wasson), but also of Time’s Up (among them Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes, Nina Shaw and Tina Tchen).
May 5 is two weeks from Wednesday.