UPDATED: On Tuesday night, fallout from recent controversies surrounding the Hollywood Foreign Press Association continued.
We can confirm from sources with knowledge that Diversity and Inclusion Advisor Dr. Shaun Harper walked away earlier today from the Golden Globes organization, as first reported by THR. The USC professor was hired by the HFPA on March 9. Also cutting ties with the HFPA is Smith & Company, the strategic advisory/crisis management firm run by former Scandal co-executive producer Judy Smith, on whom the series’ Olivia Pope was based. The company had been retained as an advisor last month.
As the HFPA’s house of cards further crumbles over the group’s lack of Black members and no real strategy to become more inclusive, long time PR firm Sunshine Sachs is putting together an exit strategy of its own. “Working with them is really starting to hurt our larger business profile and we can’t have that from any one client,” an insider told Deadline of Sunshine Sach’s looming decision to no longer represent the HFPA. “We can’t work like that,” they added.
The firm did not respond to comment, however, we hear from another well positioned source that Sunshine Sachs is “considering all options.” We hear that it’s a matter of days, if not hours, before Sunshine Sachs makes a break with the stumbling HFPA org.
The news of Harper’s exit comes in the wake of wildly inappropriate email comments made by former HFPA President Phil Berk on Sunday. In his remarks, Berk referred to Black Lives Matter as a “racist hate movement,” also describing the movement’s co-founder Patrisse Cullors as “the self-proclaimed ‘trained Marxist.’” On Tuesday, after condemning statements were released by NBC and Dick Clark Productions owner MRC, Berk was expelled from the organization over his use of racist rhetoric.
THR also reported that Judy Smith’s firm Smith & Company also parted ways with the HFPA after being hired by the org’s law firm of Lathan & Watkins to advise just over a month ago. Deadline has reached out to Smith and received no comment. We’ll update you when we do.
Today’s blast radius was only the latest controversy from the less than 90-member organization.
Leading up to the 78th Golden Globe Awards on February 28, it emerged that the group has zero Black individuals among its 87 voting members. A fact that was mentioned repeatedly at the Globes themselves that night, including vague promises from a trio of HFPA brass that they would fix the problem.
Subsequently, Time’s Up and over 100 PR firms threatened to end business with the group, unless it made good on major reforms, in terms of representation. The HFPA promised to take action by May 6. Harper’s departure today only increases the pressure on the group to make changes.
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