Update: The Hollywood Foreign Press announced on Tuesday that Berk was expelled as a member of the organization.“Effective immediately, Phil Berk is no longer a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” the HFPA's board said in a statement.
Already rocked by charges of racism, as well as grifting, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — the group of journalists who decide and manage the Golden Globe Awards — is facing a new scandal after its ex-president, who is still active in the group, sent an email equating Black Lives Matter to Charles Manson.
Phil Berk, an eight-term president of the HPFA, sent the email Sunday to association members, staff, and the group’s general counsel and chief operating officer, the Los Angeles Times reports. The email contained an article from the right-wing website FrontPage Mag, where the writer attacked Black Lives Matter and specifically went after the group's queer cofounder Patrisse Cullors. The article referred to BLM as a “racist hate movement” and took umbrage at the price of Cullors's Los Angeles home.
“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,” the post read.
The Times wasn't able to reach Cullors about Berk sharing the “story,” but she previously blasted the article itself, saying, “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.”
Since Berk sent the email out to everyone involved with the HFPA, reaction was swift and mostly angry, with the COO of HFPA castigating the former president in an emailed response seen by all involved. Berk responded to the criticism by saying it was coming from his “sworn enemies” and it was “no surprise.” The organization sent out a statement to the press saying, “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.”
Berk's email follows charges of racism at the organization, ranging from the snubbing of Black artists, films, and shows in Globe nominations and awards, to the fact that there are no Black journalists among its 90 members.
In 2018, actor Brendan Fraser accused Berk of sexually assaulting him.
“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 told GQ magazine of the alleged assault, which Fraser says happened at a 2003 luncheon. Fraser's publicist informed the HFPA shortly after the alleged incident occurred and Berk allegedly issued a private, half-hearted apology. Fraser says he was mostly ignored by the HFPA board and effectively blacklisted from all Globe events and his career suffered as a result of blowing the whistle on Berk's alleged behavior. After the GQ article came out, Berk, now 88, denied he assaulted Fraser, calling the accusation a “total fabrication.”
Berk, from South Africa, is the author of a 2014 memoir, With Signs and Wonders: My Journey From Darkest Africa to the Bright Lights of Hollywood. After the book came out, the HFPA was angered at its portrayal and Berk took a six-month leave of absence.