The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has apologized on behalf of its former president Philip Berk after he faced backlash over an email he sent condemning Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Berk also characterized the social justice organization as a hate group.
The 88-year-old HFPA member, who served eight terms as HFPA president, shared an article on Sunday, April 19, that called BLM a “racist hate movement” and described Cullors as “the self-proclaimed trained Marxist.” The post was sent to the association’s members, including its staff and the group’s general counsel and chief operating officer, Gregory Goeckner. (The HFPA, which describes itself as a group of “international journalists based in Southern California” who “disseminate information about movies and television to the world through their various publications throughout the world,” is best known as the group that presents the Golden Globes awards every year.)
“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,” the South African-born Berk’s email said in part. “And Black Lives Matter is carrying on Manson’s work.” The comment was in reference to a $1.4 million home Cullors purchased in Topanga Canyon.
Berk did not provide a source or link to his email. However, the Los Angeles Times reported that it appeared to have been an article by far-right commentator Daniel Greenfield that was originally published under the headline “BLM Goes Hollywood” and appeared on ultra-right provocateur David Horowitz’s Freedom Center Website, FrontPage Mag, on April 12.
The email continued to take jabs at Cullors and other BLM activists, shaming them for their ties to Hollywood. “The founder 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 read.
Fellow HFPA members quickly responded to Berk’s remarks calling them “racist” and “vile.” Another member called Berk “a thundering disgrace.” HFPA’s COO, Goeckner, wrote back, saying, “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 hypocricy [sic] that engulfs us I forwarded it as a point of information I had no hidden agenda I now regret having sent it,” Berk answered back.
On Monday evening, April 19, the HFPA released a statement, stating, “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.” It added, “The HFPA condemns all forms of racism, discrimination and hate speech and finds such language and content unacceptable.”
This is the latest flap involving the HFPA, which was recently revealed as having zero Black people among its 87 voting members. Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that the HFPA board is reportedly considering taking action to punish Philip Berk.