A judge has taken under submission a motion by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to dismiss portions of a lawsuit filed by a member of the organization who alleges he was subjected to disparate treatment because of his Muslim faith and Palestinian origin.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael L. Stern heard arguments on the HFPA’s anti-SLAPP motion on Monday in the case brought by plaintiff Husam “Sam” Asi, then said he wanted to study the issues further.
The state’s anti-SLAPP — Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation — law is intended to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate those who are exercising their First Amendment rights. The HFPA alleges that the first nine of Asi’s 14 causes of action, which include contractual and emotional distress claims, “target speech and other activity protected by the federal and California constitutions.”
Asi became an HFPA member in 2010. His suit was filed May 11, three months after the HFPA, the group behind the Golden Globes, put the plaintiff on probation amid claims of sexual misconduct.
Asi alleges the HFPA sent out a news release stating that he was being placed on probation without first conducting an investigation or notifying him, both in violation of the organization’s confidentiality rules.
“Dr. Asi was subjected to several instances of discriminatory conduct by HFPA,” the suit states. “These instances were not investigated. In failing to investigate or to take other corrective action, HFPA breached its own bylaws and code of conduct.”
Asi also alleges he himself was subjected to sexual harassment that also was not investigated by the HFPA, citing as an example the actions of a female HFPA board member who allegedly grabbed the plaintiff’s buttocks more than once in front of several news reporters at different news conferences during the spring of 2018 and invited the plaintiff to her house to teach him how to do “good sex.”
Asi, who is Muslim and of Palestinian origin, also alleges that HFPA leadership repeatedly called him a “terrorist” and an “angry Arab.”