In the latest wave to roil the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., more than 100 of the most powerful publicists representing the majority of entertainment talent and artists warned the association they would cut them off if the embattled organization did not take significant steps toward reform and transparency.
“We call on the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. to swiftly manifest profound and lasting change to eradicate the longstanding exclusionary ethos and pervasive practice of discriminatory behavior, unprofessionalism, ethical impropriety and alleged financial corruption endemic to the HFPA, funded by Dick Clark Productions, MRC, NBCUniversal and Comcast,” the publicists wrote in a letter sent to the group Monday afternoon.
The letter is the most strident public response among industry insiders to the organization since The Times investigation last month that raised a slew of questions about the HFPA’s membership and conduct and highlighted the lack of Black members in the group.
“To reflect how urgent and necessary we feel this work is, we cannot advocate for our clients to participate in HFPA events or interviews as we await your explicit plans and timeline for transformational change,” the letter said.
The missive arrived a week after the HFPA distributed a letter to Hollywood publicists underscoring its commitment to addressing inclusion and diversity among the ranks of the 87-member group.
After The Times highlighted the lack of Black members in the group, sparking a social media protest spearheaded by Time’s Up prior to February’s Golden Globe Awards, the HFPA announced that it would hire a diversity and equity expert and engage in outreach to try to recruit Black journalists and others from underrepresented backgrounds.
The HFPA has long been dogged by scandals, lawsuits and questions regarding its membership and its ethics, and the Globes have bounced between TV networks since the awards were launched in 1944.
In recent weeks, despite the association’s proclamations to reform, it has faced increased scrutiny and withering criticism over its insularity and powerful position it holds within the Hollywood awards ecosystem.
Saying the “eyes of the industry and those who support it are watching,” the letter warned of lasting damage unless the HFPA enacts real reforms.
“While we stand ready to support your good faith efforts, please know that anything less than transparent, meaningful change that respects and honors the diversity and dignity of our clients, their colleagues and our global audience will result in immediate and irreparable damage to the relationship between our agencies, our clients and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and those who sanction the institutional inequity and insular culture that currently define it,” the publicists wrote.
One publicist whose agency signed the letter said it reflected mounting frustration with the organization.
"The power of the HFPA is abusive to some people and there was this opportunity to say enough already," said the publicist, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals. "I think the publicists want to hold them accountable and see what they come up with in May and in the meantime hold back and let them know that their integrity is being questioned."
In a statement, the HFPA said it "reiterates that we are committed to making necessary changes within our organization and in our industry as a whole. We also acknowledge that we should have done more, and sooner."
To underscore its commitment, the association pledged to expand to a minimum of 100 members this year (up from 87) with at least 13% Black members, along with a host of diversity training and other initiatives, including a "comprehensive review of our governance and code of conduct" led by outside counsel.
"We have also started meeting with various advocacy groups and racially diverse partners to gather their input and hear their opinions on the additional reforms that need to take place. While we recognize this is a long-term process, we will continue to be transparent, provide updates, and have confidence in our ability to change and restore trust in our organization and the Golden Globes."
Read the full letter below:
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.