The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has apologized after one of its former presidents sent an email to members that included an article calling Black Lives Matter a ‘racist hate movement’ and comparing its work to mass murderer Charles Manson.
The organization behind the Golden Globe Awards issued a statement saying it ‘condemns all forms of racism, discrimination and hate speech’ as it slammed the email from Philip Berk as ‘unacceptable.’
Berk, an 88-year-old current member who served eight terms as HFPA president, shared an article that appeared to be from FrontPage Mag with the association’s members, staff and general counsel Sunday. The article accused BLM of ‘carrying on’ Manson’s mission to ‘start a race war’.
The article also hit out at BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors over her recent purchase of a $1.4 million home in Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles. The purchase, the article contended, came one year after ‘the hate group’s race rioters burned buildings and terrorized communities.’
This marks the latest controversy for the HFPA after it recently came under fire for not having a black member in more than 20 years.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has apologized after former president Philip Berk (pictured December 2006 at the announcement of the Golden Globe nominees in Beverly Hills) sent an email to members calling Black Lives Matter a ‘racist hate movement’ and comparing its work to notorious mass murderer Charles Manson
In Sunday’s email, seen by the Los Angeles Times, Berk shared what appeared to be an article titled ‘BLM Goes Hollywood’ that had been posted on FrontPage Mag on April 12.
The article blasted ‘trained Marxist’ Cullors over her home purchase after reports surfaced this month that she had accrued a $3 million property empire of four homes in recent years.
The piece especially took issue with the Topanga Canyon home in a largely white neighborhood claiming it is ‘ideal for ‘quietly contemplating cross-canyon vistas framed by mature trees’ or the next town your hate group is going to burn.’
It then goes on to accuse BLM, the social movement protesting against racist violence against black people, of ‘carrying on Manson’s work.’
‘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,’ says the post.
Manson formed a cult – the Manson Family – which wanted to start a race war in the 1960s.
The Manson Family murdered seven people in two horrific attacks on homes in LA in August of 1969.
The article also goes on to slam Cullors and BLM for their apparent ties to Hollywood, claiming the ‘racist hate movement was always an entertainment industry production.’
Berk shared an article from a right-wing website with the association’s members, staff and general counsel Sunday which hit out at BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors (pictured)
The article blasted Cullors’ recent purchase of a $1.4 million home in Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles (above), one year after it said ‘the hate group’s race rioters burned buildings and terrorized communities’
The day after the FrontPageMag article was posted online, Cullors released a statement on Instagram blasting a ‘false and defamatory article’ circulating about her. There were several articles and news stories circulating at that point, so it’s not clear what she was referring to.
‘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 wrote.
Meanwhile, Berk’s email sparked a backlash among some HFPA members – with Chief Operating Officer Gregory Goeckner branding it ‘deeply offensive’ and member Rui Coimbra saying his ‘equating the Black Lives Matter moment to the Charles Manson murderous gang’ is ‘racist’ in the heated email chain that followed.
‘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,’ wrote Coimbra, according to the LA Times.
‘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.’
Goeckner agreed and insisted the former president not send content like that in future.
‘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,’ he wrote.
FrontPage Mag’s April 12 article (above) accused BLM of ‘carrying on’ mass murderer Manson’s mission to ‘start a race war’
Manson (1969 appearing for his arraignment) formed a cult – the Manson Family – which wanted to start a race war in the 1960s. The Manson Family murdered seven people in two horrific attacks on homes in LA in August of 1969
‘Please do not circulate this type of material again.’
Another board member Luca Celada compared the circulation of the ‘vile rhetoric’ to sharing the anti-Semitic hoax text ‘The Protocols of Learned Elders of Zion’ that inspired Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’.
‘We might as well have circulated the Protocols of the of the Elders Zion. [sic] The vile rhetoric contained in this screed is simply unacceptable,’ Celada wrote.
‘In our association or anywhere.’
But some leaped to Berk’s defense, with member Noemia Young demanding people stop ‘calling everyone and everything racist.’
‘I think that what we need to do is be more tolerant of everyone’s opinions. Stop calling everyone and everything racist!’ Young wrote, per the LA Times.
‘Isn’t that what people who don’t know anything about us are accusing us of?’
Berk sought to explain his actions, replying to the heated email chain that: ‘I only intended to illustrate the hypocricy that engulfs us I forwarded it as a point of information I had no hidden agenda I now regret having sent it.’
The day after the article was posted online, Cullors released a statement on Instagram blasting a ‘false and defamatory article’ circulating about her
This sparked a spat between the 88-year-old and his alleged ‘sworn enemies’, with member Patricia Danaher branding him a ‘thundering disgrace’ and Husam ‘Sam’ Asi saying ‘he fact that you’re not recognizing the gravity of your statement is disturbing.’
Berk continued to refuse to back down however, firing over email that ‘I’m hearing from my sworn enemies. No surprise.’
The HFPA said in a statement that Berk’s comments and the article do not represent the ‘views and values’ of the organization.
‘Since its inception, the HFPA has dedicated itself to bridging cultural connections and creating further understanding of different backgrounds through film and TV,’ it said.
‘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.’
This isn’t the first time Berk has found himself at the center of controversy, after Hollywood star Brendan Fraser accused the South African native of assaulting him.
Fraser told GQ magazine in 2018 about an alleged incident at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2003 where he said Berk groped his buttocks.
Berk’s (pictured at California State University in 2017) email sparked a heated exchange with COO Gregory Goeckner branding it ‘deeply offensive’ and member Rui Coimbra calling it ‘racist’
‘His left hand reaches around, grabs my ass cheek, and one of his fingers touches me in the taint. And he starts moving it around,’ Fraser said in the interview.
The actor told how he was left traumatized following the incident, saying: ‘I felt ill. I felt like a little kid.’
The actor’s publicist then sent a letter to the HFPA condemning its longtime influential member’s actions.
When the allegations surfaced in 2018, the HFPA vowed to launch an investigation and insisted it was ‘previously unaware’ of the incident.
Berk apologized in a letter to Fraser but said Fraser’s allegations were a ‘total fabrication’ and that the encounter was a joke.
Fraser spoke out later that year to slam the HFPA’s handling of the allegations, saying the organization would not share the full findings of its probe with him and had asked him to issue a joint statement in which the HFPA wished to describe the incident as ‘a joke and not as a sexual advance.’
This scandal came four years after Berk drew outrage from other HFPA members over the release of his controversial memoir Signs And Wonders in which he took shots at fellow members and celebrities involved in the Golden Globes.
In 2018, Hollywood star Brendan Fraser (pictured in 2014) accused Berk of groping his buttocks at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2003. Fraser later condemned the HFPA’s handling of the allegations which Berk dismissed as a ‘joke’ and ‘total fabrication’
The then-president took a six month leave of absence from the organization amid the backlash over the book’s release but went on to be re-elected HFPA president for four more years afterward.
Meanwhile, the latest controversy surrounding Berk and the HFPA comes at a time when the organization’s lack of diversity and governance is under the spotlight.
The scrutiny came about in February following a damning report by the LA Times that showed the prolific industry entity had zero black journalists among its 87 current members and that calls to hire a diversity expert to address the issue amid George Floyd protests last year were shot down.
The probe sparked a social media movement, spearheaded by Time’s Up and black director Ava DuVernay, demanding change and shrouding March’s 78th annual Golden Globes Awards in controversy.
Last month, the group vowed to make ‘transformational’ changes including hiring a diversity expert to help the organization tackle the issues and hiring a third-party law firm to review its policies.
The organization will also introduce mandatory training on unconscious bias, anti-racism and sexual harassment for every member, it said.
The HFPA has been mired in controversy this year following a damning report by the LA Times that showed it has had no black members in more than 20 years. The entity has vowed ‘transformational change’ and said it will announce reforms by May 5
It also vowed to engage in outreach work to try to recruit black and underrepresented talent through internship, mentorship and scholarship programs.
But the group’s pledge to reform itself instantly drew skepticism from Time’s Up, which cast doubt about the commitment to fix issues it has ‘ignored for decades’.
Time’s Up president and CEO Tina Tchen questioned its sudden pledge and warned the ‘clock is ticking’.
A group of 100 PR firms also applied pressure on the organization threatening to cut off access to celebrities unless the HFPA increased black membership.
The HFPA responded by promising to increase its black membership from zero to 13 percent.
The HFPA, which is the organizing committee behind the Golden Globes and also decides the winners, has vowed to announce a full set of reforms by May 6.