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Al Sharpton on Sony's Amy Pascal: 'Jury is still out'

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Amy Pascal, Sony Pictures Entertainment's embattled co-chairman, met with the Rev. Al Sharpton

The Rev. Al Sharpton on Thursday said that "the jury is still out on where we go” with embattled Sony Pictures Entertainment co-Chairman Amy Pascal, who came under pressure after a cyberattack exposed her racially tinged email exchanges with a Hollywood producer. 

However, Sharpton did not call for Pascal to step down. 

Sharpton met with Pascal for 90 minutes Thursday at a Manhattan hotel where they agreed to set up a “working group” to deal with racial bias and the lack of diversity in the film industry.

The embattled studio executive met with Sharpton a week after she apologized for a leaked email exchange in which she made racially insensitive remarks about President Obama.

In a sidewalk news conference outside the Greenwich Hotel after their meeting, Sharpton said he told Pascal that the tone of the remarks in her hacked emails were the byproduct of “an exclusionary, almost all-white hierarchy.”

Pascal’s leaked exchanges with producer Scott Rudin included remarks that suggested Obama’s taste in movies would be inclined to films with black subject matters and casts. Both have apologized for the remarks.

Sharpton said Sony had agreed to assemble a working group that will collaborate with Sharpton’s National Action Network, the National Urban League, the NAACP and the Black Women’s Roundtable on ways to address racial bias in Hollywood. Urban League President Marc Morial was present at the discussion.

Sharpton also said he made his feelings known to Pascal about the decision to cancel the Christmas Day release of "The Interview" as a result of threats the hackers made to attack theaters that screened the film. “We discussed [that] there was a serious and dangerous precedent that has been established where anonymous hackers can intimidate the actual life in America,” he said.

Pascal and Sony have faced enormous pressure since being besieged by the Nov. 24 cyberattack in which hackers scooped up confidential documents, emails and employee information. It ultimately led to the cancellation of the release of "The Interview" over hackers’ threats to security at movie theaters.

In a November 2013 email exchange leaked by the hackers, Pascal asked Rudin what she should talk to Obama about at a breakfast event hosted by DreamWorks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg.

"Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?" she wrote, referring to the film about a freed slave. Later in the exchange Pascal wondered if she should ask Obama if he liked two other African American-focused films, "The Butler" and "Think Like a Man."

Pascal apologized last week, calling the comments “insensitive and inappropriate, but not an accurate reflection of who I am.”

Sony on Wednesday canceled the release of "The Interview" after the majority of top U.S. theater chains had already decided to not run the film in reponse to the hackers' threats. 

The action came as U.S. intelligence officials confirmed widespread speculation that the North Korean government was behind the devastating cyberattack, which has hobbled Sony Pictures and spread fear throughout the entertainment industry. "The Interview" depicts the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Times staff writer Ryan Faughnder contributed to this report. 

Follow Stephen Battaglio on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @SteveBattaglio

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

11:25 a.m.: This post was updated to provide details after the meeting between Amy Pascal and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

This post was first published at 8:56 a.m.

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