After NBC calls on HFPA to oust ex-president, citing ‘racist rhetoric,’ Phil Berk is out
Just hours after NBC and Dick Clark Productions — the broadcast network and producing partner of the Golden Globes — asked the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. to expel a former president over an email that called Black Lives Matter a “hate movement,” that member is out of the organization.
“Effective immediately, Phil Berk is no longer a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.,” said a statement released by the HFPA on Tuesday.
The move follows a Times report that South African-born Phil Berk, a current member and eight-term HFPA president, sent an email Sunday criticizing Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. The post touched off a firestorm among many members of the organization, a group of international journalists that doles out the annual Golden Globes.
In the email, Berk shared an article that called BLM a “racist hate movement” and described Cullors as “the self-proclaimed ‘trained Marxist.’” It was sent out to the association’s members, its staff and the group’s general counsel and chief operating officer, Gregory Goeckner.
The email lands as the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has come under pressure for having no Black members and allegations of ethical and financial lapses raised in a Times investigation.
In an internal email sent by DCP, the company told employees, “We unequivocally condemn the actions and words of a member of the HFPA. We have called upon the board to take swift and decisive action. We also indicated that this response should serve as an example of how they intend to act on member behavior that violates their recent commitment to reform and improve racial equality. We have been working for months with the organization to guide and push them toward meaningful change. While we had remained hopeful about progress, this is a very real reminder that there are members who don’t support this work. That is unacceptable.”
In a public statement, the company said, “We stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, artists, journalists and executives who have been hurt or overlooked by the HFPA. 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.”
Privately, on Monday night DCP sent the HFPA a letter asking for Berk’s immediate expulsion.
On Tuesday, NBC also issued a statement echoing DCP.
“NBC strongly condemns Phil Berk’s actions and is calling for his immediate expulsion. 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.”
The statement can be read as NBC putting down the hammer on the organization, according to someone familiar with the dynamics between NBC and the HFPA but not authorized to speak publicly.
Until now DCP has remained quiet, working behind the scenes with the HFPA and not speaking out publicly. It was waiting until the association released a set of reforms expected in early May, according to an individual involved but not authorized to speak. The Berk email, however, displayed a “very blatant exhibition of racism,” and the company felt it needed to say something publicly, the person said.
Earlier, the HFPA’s board repudiated Berk’s email in a statement saying, “the views expressed in the article,” that Berk shared, “do not — in any way shape or form — reflect the views and values of the HFPA. The HFPA condemns all forms of racism, discrimination and hate speech and finds such language and content unacceptable.”
Last month, the group behind the Golden Globe Awards pledged to make “transformational change” and retained a strategic diversity advisor, Shaun Harper, a professor of racial, gender and LGBTQ issues at USC’s Marshall School of Business, and an outside law firm, Ropes & Gray, to audit and review its policies and membership requirements and bylaws.
The HFPA, which in recent weeks has reached out to the National Assn. of Black Journalists and the NAACP, plans to announce a set of reforms on May 6.
Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.
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