Oscars: U.S. Congressman Expresses "Shock at the Lack of Diversity"

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Tony Cardenas

Rep. Tony Cardenas asks Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs to meet with him to begin to address the issue.

The lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees has attracted the attention Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-San Fernando  Valley), who has written to Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs to express his “shock,” saying, “it is unfortunate to see a revered American institution fail to fully reflect our nation.”

Cardenas, who is serving his second term in Congress where he sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, requested a meeting with Boone Isaacs “to begin a dialogue on how to build a more diverse entertainment industry to better represent the diversity of our nation and the world.” The letter, which was released by his office on Tuesday, was also copied to members of the Academy’s board of governors as well as studios chiefs at the six major studios such Warner’s Kevin Tsujihara and Fox’s Jim Gianopulos.

The Academy, which is currently prepping for the 87th annual Academy Awards, which take place on Sunday, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the issue of diversity — which is as much a reflection of the motion picture industry as it is a question of the Academy’s specific nominations — has swirled around this year’s Oscars ever since the noms, which included no minorities in the four acting categories, were announced on Jan. 15.

In his letter, Cardenas — who was previously a member of the Los Angeles City Council and before that served three consecutive terms as a member of the California State Assembly — noted that “as a Latino and an engineer, I know what it’s like to be in a work environment full of people who don’t look like me. Throughout my career as a small business owner and as an elected official, I have surrounded myself with a diverse environment and promoted policies and hiring practices that are reflective of our community’s vast diversity. I have always been conscious of making sure that opportunities are available to talented and qualified people. I want to work with you to improve diversity in the Academy membership and the entertainment industry in a similar fashion.”