Embattled HFPA Expels Phil Berk as a Member Following Racist Email

Michael Schneider
·3-min read

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assoc. has announced, via its board, that effective immediately, Phil Berk is no longer a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

The move comes in the wake of a racist email that Berk, a former 8-term HFPA president, sent to members over the weekend. And it came just hours after NBC, in a statement, suggested that the network’s telecast of the Golden Globes was in jeopardy if the HFPA didn’t take swift action on Berk. “NBC strongly condemns Phil Berk’s actions and is calling for his immediate expulsion,” the network said. “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.”

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The HFPA is under increasing pressure from all of its dramatic steps to address its diversity crisis and the longstanding criticism that the organization is insular and opaque about its activities including the administration of the Golden Globe Awards. Adding to the urgency is reports that emerged Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter that two key advisors hired by the HFPA to guide the organization on diversity and inclusion matters — USC professor Shaun Harper and crisis management expert Judy Smith — have resigned from those roles.

Frustrated NBC execs have been waiting on the HFPA to reveal a full plan on how to reform the organization, following previous reports by the Los Angeles Times that revealed the fact that the organization does not have a single Black member, as well as questionable financial practices. The HFPA also has felt the heat from a coalition of the industry’s largest PR firms, which last month publicly vowed not to work with HFPA until at least May 6 while the group addressed its problems.

But most recently, the Times noted a Berk email, sent to HFPA members, quoting an article that called the Black Lives Matter organization a “racist hate movement” and claiming that Black Lives Matters’ Patrisse Cullors was a “self-proclaimed trained Marxist.”

In response, mortified HFPA members condemned Berk in response to the email. In a statement, the org added, “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.”

MRC, which owns Golden Globes producer Dick Clark Prods., added, “We are disgusted by the racist rhetoric disseminated by a member yesterday… We are calling upon the HFPA to take quick and decisive action against this member.”

MRC echoed NBC’s concern that “there must be meaningful change defined in the May 6th plan,” emphasizing the deadline by which time the HFPA has promised to detail its plans for reform. The HFPA has already committed to adding at least 13 Black members to its roster.

Berk is no stranger to controversy. Previously, Brendan Fraser has alleged that the former HFPA president sexually assaulted him. In 2014, he angered members after writing about the org and some of his colleagues in the memoir. He took a leave of absence after the book was published. Berk served as president of the HFPA for eight terms.

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