As you may know by now, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which conducts the annual Golden Globe Awards, has had to do some extra public relations fixing in the past few months.
Just about a week before the 78th Golden Globes ceremony was to take place, a scathing report was released in regards to its…less-than-fully-colorful membership. As in, the organization had absolutely no Black members. As Insider previously reported, the organization actually hadn’t had Black members in nearly two decades. It was only after a bunch of Hollywood publicists and PR firms wrote a demand letter to HFPA basically telling them to “do better!” or risk their clients declining participation in their events that the organization released their mild compromise—a 13 percent Black member mandate. Even after that, more reports surfaced in regards to HFPA members rejecting Black-led press conferences. Big ol’ yikes.
As expected, this isn’t over. On Monday evening, the LA Times reported on an email sent by former HPFA president Phil Berk to members, staff, general counsel and the chief operating officer Gregory Goeckner over the past weekend. In the email, Berk reportedly referred to Black Lives Matter as a “racist hate movement” and described BLM organization co-founder Patrisse Cullors as “the self-proclaimed ‘trained Marxist.’” Berk served eight terms as HFPA president.
Naturally, the email chain was so inflammatory, many members asked to be removed from the thread.
Here’s a snippet of the email back-and-forth, via the LA Times:
“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,” replied member Rui Coimbra. “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.”
“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?” wrote another member, Noemia Young.
Responding to Berk, board member Luca Celada wrote, “We might as well have circulated the Protocols of the Elders Zion. The vile rhetoric contained in this screed is simply unacceptable. In our association or anywhere.”
HFPA’s COO, Goeckner, weighed in, writing, “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.”
“I only intended to illustrate the hypocrisy that engulfs us. I forwarded it as a point of information, I had no hidden agenda [and] I now regret having sent it,” answered Berk.
Again—yikes. Young’s “stop calling everything and everyone racist” is the extremist-dismissive type of comment that further supports my initial concern that the HFPA becoming more inclusive without actually providing a safe environment for the new Black members is useless. While I’m not suggesting anyone can control comments such as Young’s from ever being uttered, what I am hoping is that they are checked, accordingly.
“Since its inception, the HFPA has dedicated itself to bridging cultural connections and creating further understanding of different backgrounds through film and TV,” an HFPA spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
If the organization’s former leader, who served several terms and essentially represented their values in the public eye don’t truly reflect the organization as a whole, then I’m hoping, at the very least, there is a deep reinvestigation of its entire structure, including the members who represent them.