What does it take to be ousted from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association? As Phil Berk, a 44-year veteran member and former president of the organization responsible for the Golden Globes, found out this week: a racist email will do it.
On Sunday, Berk sent an email to several of his fellow HFPA members in which he shared an article from Frontpage Magazine, a conservative publication, titled “BLM Goes Hollywood.” The article, which heavily hinted at financial improprieties on the part of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors—seemingly because she bought “a $1.4 million home in the mostly white Topanga Canyon”—described BLM as a “hate group” and its supporters as “race rioters [who] burned buildings and terrorized communities.”
The article’s author really drove his point home when describing Cullors’s home as being “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.” Berk seemed surprised when his email, which was shared with his colleagues, was met with an immediate backlash.
Gregory Goeckner, the HFPA’s COO and General Counsel, replied:
“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.”
Fortunately, not all of Berk’s colleagues were as measured in their responses. In addition to being called a “racist” (obviously), others described his email as “vile” and one deemed him “a thundering disgrace.” Berk, not quite ready to take his ball and go home, replied that he “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.”
By Tuesday, both NBC (which broadcasts the Golden Globes) and MRC (the parent company of Dick Clark Productions, which produces the broadcast) released statements calling for Berk’s removal, noting that: “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.”
While the organization’s practices have long been questioned by Hollywood insiders, they’ve come under closer scrutiny in recent months. When it was revealed earlier this year that the 87-person group has not one Black member, the organization’s president responded by admitting that there hasn’t been a Black HFPA member in nearly 20 years.
Berk, meanwhile, has been a very public troublemaker for the group. In 2014, he took a “voluntary” leave of absence after publishing a memoir in which he spilled all sorts of dirt on his HFPA colleagues. Even more infamously, he was taken to task in 2018 when Brendan Fraser told GQ about being groped by Berk in 2003. Though the group professed to have launched an investigation into the claim, but they refused to share any of their findings with Fraser and dismissed it as “a joke.” When GQ reached out to Berk in 2018 to ask if he had faced any disciplinary measures over the matter, he replied “Not at all.”
While Berk has yet to issue any personal statement on his parting with the HFPA, something tells us he won’t stay quiet for long.