Golden Globes organisers apologise after former president accused of calling BLM a ‘hate movement’

The group said it would unveil major reforms on 6 May

Graig Graziosi
Monday 26 April 2021 18:05
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A Golden Globe trophy is set by the stage ahead of the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards nominations announcement on 9 December 2019 in Beverly Hills, California
A Golden Globe trophy is set by the stage ahead of the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards nominations announcement on 9 December 2019 in Beverly Hills, California

The former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – the group that organises the Golden Globe awards – has come under fire for sharing a post about the Black Lives Matter movement that called it a "racist hate movement," and took aim at its leaders, calling one of them a "self-proclaimed 'trained Marxist.'"

The email was sent by Phil Berk. According to the Los Angeles Times, Mr Berk served eight terms as the HFPA's president.

Mr Berk, 88, sent the email to the HFPA's members, its staff and its general counsel and chief operating officer.

The post contained in the email was reportedly published under the headline "BLM Goes Hollywood," and originally appeared on the website of conservative writer David Horowitz.

The article criticised one of the leaders of BLM, Patrisse Cullors, for purchasing a $1.4m home in Los Angeles the year after "race rioters burned buildings and terrorized communities."

“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 said.

The post went on to undermine the intention of BLM, claiming the racial justice movement was just a front for organisers to gain notoriety for themselves.

“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 post said.

Ms Cullors issued a statement on Instagram responding to the allegations, calling them "false and defamatory."

“This effort to discredit and harass me and my family is not new nor is it acceptable. It has taken away from where the focus should be — ending white supremacy,” she said.

The HFPA was quick to distance itself Mr Berk's message.

“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 HFPA condemns all forms of racism, discrimination and hate speech and finds such language and content unacceptable,” the organisation said in a statement.

Members also leapt at the opportunity to put space between themselves and Mr Berk's email.

Rui Coimbra, a former HFPA president and current member of the organisation, condemned the commentary contained in the message.

“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,” she said. “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 moment to the Charles Manson murderous gang.”

The HFPA's COO, Gregory Goeckner, also chastised Mr Berk for sending his email to everyone in the organisation.

“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,” Mr Goekner said.

Mr Berk responded, saying he wished he had not sent the email.

“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,” Mr Berk said.

The timing of the post could not have come at a worse time for the HFPA’s PR team; the organisation recently faced criticism for having no Black members.

TheLA Times also uncovered allegations of financial and ethical lapses at the organisation.

In response, the group said it would pledge to make “transformational change,” and hired a “strategic diversity advisor” by the name of Shaun Harper.

D Harper is a professor of racial, gender and LGBTQ issues at the University of Southern California.

The HFPA claims it will unveil its new reforms on 6 May.

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