HFPA member sues organization for retaliation and sexual harassment

Member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association the organization sued on Wednesdayclaiming he had been sexually harassed and called a “terrorist” and an “angry Arab” by members of the group.

Husam “Sam” Asi has been a presenter on BBC Arabic and a member of the HFPA since 2010. He was placed on probation in February after Envelope Reported that three women had accused him of sexual misconduct.

In the lawsuit, Asi says the allegations against him are false and have been “weaponized” by the HFPA to retaliate against him for holding leaders accountable. Asi says he was also placed on probation by the BBC and its newspaper, Al Quds Al Arabi, and was forced to pay for his own accreditation to attend the Cannes Film Festival.

The HFPA puts on the Golden Globes and is still trying to undo the damage caused by a 2021 Los Angeles Times investigation, which revealed potential financial irregularities and the fact that the organization had no black members. NBC has opted out of airing the Globes this year, and the organization is looking to expand its ranks and implement higher professional standards to get back into the network’s good graces.

Asi was among those who criticized the group, saying in a July 2020 meeting that he had heard many “racist comments” from HFPA members, according to a March 2021 Times report.

In his lawsuit, he alleges that the organization issued a press release stating that it was placing him on probation without prior investigation or notification, and in violation of its own confidentiality rules.

“This is not standard practice for HFPA,” the lawsuit states. “The most logical explanation is that the HFPA, criticized by the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets for failing so miserably to keep its house in order, is using the false allegations against Dr. Asi as an opportunity to make people believe that he takes the allegations seriously and changes his culture.

Asi says that although he cooperated with the internal investigation, the HFPA dragged its feet, prolonging the harm he suffered.

The lawsuit also says the organization failed to investigate incidents of sexual harassment and racist comments directed at it. In particular, Asi alleges that an HFPA board member grabbed his butt more than once and invited him to her house to teach him how to have “good sex.” He alleges that another HFPA member kissed him and put his tongue in his mouth, and that a former member offered to show him videos of her and her boyfriend doing the love as a form of “sex instruction”. All of this was done without his consent, according to the lawsuit.

Asi, who is Muslim and of Palestinian origin, also claims that HFPA leaders have repeatedly called him a “terrorist” and an “angry Arab”. He says his complaints have not been investigated.

A spokesperson for the HFPA said the organization has not received a lawsuit.

“The HFPA has not received this complaint, but our position remains the same that a member has been charged by a third party with material and serious charges. We have a disciplinary review process involving a thorough investigation by an outside firm to which all members are subject. We will respect the integrity of the investigation process and await its findings before determining how to proceed,” the spokesperson said.

Aubrey L. Morgan