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Longtime Hollywood Foreign Press president circulates article branding BLM a 'racist hate movement,' faces serious backlash


Didn't go over well with some

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Phil Berk, former longtime president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, circulated an article stating that the Black Lives Matter organization is a "racist hate movement."

The association, which is behind the annual Golden Globe awards, quickly distanced itself from the message in a statement.

What are the details?

According to a Tuesday report from the Los Angeles Times, Berk sent a message to the press association's members, staff, general counsel, and chief operating officer Gregory Goeckner, with an article stating that the organization is a racist movement.

In his message, Berk, 88, shared an article titled, "BLM Goes Hollywood," which addressed BLM co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors' recent purchase of a $1.4 million California home.

"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," a portion of the article read. "And Black Lives Matter is carrying on Manson's work."

The post added, "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."

Members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's board issued a statement on Berk sharing the article, insisting that such views are not reflective of the organization as a whole.

"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 statement said. "The HFPA condemns all forms of racism, discrimination, and hate speech and finds such language and content unacceptable."

What did the members say?

Goeckner responded, "Phil — it is not appropriate to circulate material such as this, which many members and staff find deeply offensive, to all members and staff as though it is a matter of Association business. Please do not circulate this type of material again."

Member Rui Coimbra responded to the message in a thread, and according to the outlet, wrote, "As a former HFPA president and still a strong and influential voice in the group, this is not the [type] of information you should be disseminating to HFPA members. Please remove me from any racist email you wish to send to the membership. Dr. Harper has been notified, here, that you are equating the Black Lives Matter movement to the Charles Manson murderous gang."

Board member Luca Celada fired back, "We might as well have circulated the Protocols of the Elders Zion [sic]. The vile rhetoric contained in this screed is simply unacceptable. In our association or anywhere."

Another member, Noemia Young, responded, "I think that what we need to do is be more tolerant of everyone's opinions. Stop calling everyone and everything racist! Isn't that what people who don't know anything about us are accusing us of?"

Berk responded to the email controversy, and wrote, "I only intended to illustrate the hypocricy [sic] that engulfs us I forwarded it as a point of information I had no hidden agenda I now regret having sent it."

What's next?

According to the Times, the email has come at a "sensitive time" for the organization, as it recently has come under fire for not having any black members.

In March, the group retained a strategic diversity adviser and a law firm to effect "transformational change" on the organization, with guidelines set to be revealed May 6.

The Wrap also reported that the association has also pledged to induct at least 13 black members into the group by year's end.

On Tuesday, Deadline reported that NBC — the network on which the Golden Globes typically airs — has condemned Berk for sharing the message, and has called for his expulsion.

In a statement, NBC — and the parent company of the Golden Globes producers — blasted Berk's message.

"NBC strongly condemns Phil Berk's actions and is calling for his immediate expulsion," a spokesperson said. "While we continue to await the details of HFPA's upcoming plan for reform, swift action on this front is an essential element for NBC to move forward with the HFPA and the Golden Globes."

Further, Dick Clark Productions' owner MRC — which has partnered with NBC for the Globes — issued a lengthier statement on the matter.

"We stand in solidarity with our black colleagues, artists, journalists, and executives who have been hurt or overlooked by the HFPA," the statement said. "We are disgusted by the racist rhetoric disseminated by a member yesterday. We were encouraged by the very strong statements the HFPA previously made around improving their organization around issues of racial reform and equity. The actions and statements of this member are inconsistent with the direction that the HFPA has publicly said it has embarked upon. We are calling upon the HFPA to take quick and decisive action against this member. Earlier this year we laid out our expectations to the organization and have been working to influence and support the progress that so many of us want to see. While we remain hopeful that progress is being made and a clear actionable roadmap is unveiled, we are deeply disappointed by this latest development. We want to reiterate publicly that there must be meaningful change defined in the May 6th plan."

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