The decision came from a two-and-a-halfhour meeting attended by about two dozen of its 36 members. White did not attend.
As first reported by Variety, McQueen was met with taunts by CityArt’s editor White at their annual gala on Jan. 6 when he took the stage to accept his prize as director for “12 Years a Slave.” White, who had panned the critically acclaimed drama, started to shout: “You’re an embarrassing doorman and garbage man. F– you. Kiss my ass.”
After the story grabbed headlines and became part of awards season chatter, the critics group announced an emergency meeting to address the situation. Repeated attempts to invite White to the proceedings were unanswered, a member said. White has denied that he heckled McQueen despite numerous eyewitness accounts. He declined to be interviewed for this story.
The organization was able to oust White by invoking an interpretation of its bylaws, which says its members must “uphold the integrity and significance of film criticism.”
White’s fate was decided by paper ballots, with more than a majority voting to remove him, an unprecedented decision for an organization that dates back to 1935.
“I’m sorry it diverted attention there from the people we were meant to honor,” said the group’s newly minted chair Stephen Whitty, film critic for the New Jersey Star-Ledger. “I don’t think it tainted the group. We recognized a problem. We met and discussed and dealt with the problem, and we’re moving forward.”
“This is not a happy situation,” said Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman. “None of us felt good about kicking out a member.”
Gleiberman added: “What came from Armond’s table was unquestionably heckling. For Armond to deny that, he’s either lying or he’s lying to himself. I’m not sure which one is worse.”
Rafer Guzman, critic for Newsday, said he too heard the disruptive comments that night. “As I recall, he was heckling both [presenter] Harry Belafonte and Steve McQueen,” Guzman said. “He was saying things like, ‘go home’ and ‘pulease.’”
At the emergency meeting, the critics also voted to suspend Lou Lumenick for one year for reporting the tallies of its votes, a violation of the rules. Lumenick was present at the meeting.
As of today, White’s name had been removed from the New York Film Critics Circle site.