Philip Berk, a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the past 44 years and an eight-term past president of the group behind the Golden Globe Awards, has been expelled from its membership two days after emailing an article to his fellow members that described Black Lives Matter as a “racist hate movement” and slammed its co-founder, Patrisse Cullors, for purchasing a home in Topanga Canyon.
“Effective immediately, Phil Berk is no longer a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” the HFPA’s board said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
Berk, an 88-year-old from South Africa, received considerable backlash to his Sunday email from fellow members, according to the Los Angeles Times, which received a copy of the email chain. One member labeled Berk’s email “racist,” another “vile” and a third called him “a thundering disgrace,” while the HFPA’s COO notified Berk that it was “not appropriate” behavior. Berk replied, “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.”
This was, in effect, Berk’s third strike with the HFPA. He previously took a leave of absence after writing a 2014 memoir, With Signs and Wonders, that did not reflect well on the organization, and was accused by the actor Brendan Fraser, in 2018, of groping Fraser’s buttocks at an event in 2003.
The Berk blowup comes at a time when the HFPA is facing an existential crisis related to race. A Feb. 21 Los Angeles Times article revealed that the organization currently counts zero Black people among its 87 voting members. Under fire from Time’s Up, the HFPA vowed — on its Feb. 28 Globes telecast and in subsequent communications — to do better. It quickly retained a diversity specialist and, THR was the first to report, even consulted with famed crisis management expert Judy Smith, who inspired Scandal‘s Olivia Pope. (THR has learned that Smith has quit as a consultant.) And it vowed to announce substantial reforms by May 6, with Time’s Up and more than 100 PR firms threatening to cut off the HFPA altogether unless those reforms are game-changers.
In a Monday evening statement, the HFPA said: “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.”
On Tuesday, both NBC, which broadcasts the Golden Globe Awards, and MRC, which owns the company that produces it, Dick Clark Productions, issued statements demanding Berk’s expulsion from the group.
“NBC strongly condemns Phil Berk’s actions and is calling for his immediate expulsion,” the network said in a statement. “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.
Added MRC, “We stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, artists, journalists and executives who have been hurt or overlooked by the HFPA. We are disgusted by the racist rhetoric disseminated by a member yesterday. We were encouraged by the very strong statements the HFPA previously made around improving their organization around issues of racial reform and equity. The actions and statements of this member are inconsistent with the direction that the HFPA has publicly said it has embarked upon.”
The MRC statement continued, “We are calling upon the HFPA to take quick and decisive action against this member. Earlier this year we laid out our expectations to the organization and have been working to influence and support the progress that so many of us want to see. While we remain hopeful that progress is being made and a clear actionable roadmap is unveiled, we are deeply disappointed by this latest development. We want to reiterate publicly that there must be meaningful change defined in the May 6th plan.”