The Hollywood Foreign Press Association — already beleaguered following revelations that it lacks any Black members — is distancing itself from an email sent by its former president that attacked Black Lives Matter as a “racist hate movement” and harshly criticized one of BLM’s founders.
Phil Berk, 88, sent the email Sunday to the association’s members, its staff and the group’s general counsel and chief operating officer, Gregory Goeckner, the Los Angeles Times reported. The newspaper said the email appears to have shared an article that originally appeared on conservative commentator David Horowitz’s website, FrontPage Mag, on April 12.
It criticized BLM 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. And Black Lives Matter is carrying on Manson’s work,” the post says.
It goes on to say that the founders of BLM “have gone to work acting, writing, consulting, and promoting for Hollywood because their racist hate movement was always an entertainment industry production.”
The Times reported that several HFPA members were aghast at the content of the email and asked to be remove from the thread.
Berk reportedly responded: “I’m hearing from my sworn enemies. No surprise.”
The HFPA officially repudiated the post.
“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 group said in a statement published in the Times. “The HFPA condemns all forms of racism, discrimination and hate speech and finds such language and content unacceptable.”
In March, the HFPA announced the hiring of a law firm and a USC expert on racial equity to reassess its policies and membership practices. That came after a report in February detailing the fact that none of the 87 HFPA members who vote for the annual Golden Globe Awards is Black.
The group announced the hiring of Shaun Harper, a professor at USC’s Marshall Business School and founder of the university’s Race and Equity Center, as the HFPA’s strategic diversity adviser. According to the group, Harper “will conduct an audit and review of the association’s bylaws, culture and eligibility requirements to help us guard against any exclusionary practices and achieve a more diverse membership.”
Harper will also conduct anti-racism and bias training for HFPA members.
The HFPA also hired the law firm of Ropes & Gray, which is based in Boston but has 11 locations globally. The firm will “conduct a comprehensive review of HFPA policies, assess our membership process, operations, governance and review our alignment with industry best practices in various areas,” according to the association.