Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal spent Thursday trying to mend more fences, this time by taking a meeting with top civil rights leaders.
National Urban League CEO Marc Morial came away from a 90-minute sitdown with the studio chief convinced that she means what she says and is committed to trying to improve diversity in the movie business.
“When people stumble, they can learn from the stumble,” said Morial. “While in many respects it shouldn’t take a stumble. In this case, it presents a great opportunity.”
Pascal ignited a firestorm of controversy last week after racially charged jokes she made in an email exchange with producer Scott Rudin about President Obama’s favorite movies, focusing on movies mainly made by and starring African-Americans, leaked online. Pascal later apologized for her remarks.
“She expressed regret and remorse and indicated the emails do not reflect who she was as a person,” Morial said.
The discussion unfolded at the Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca and also included Rev. Al Sharpton, who was a fierce critic of Pascal’s emails.
Pascal’s emails leaked after hackers breached Sony’s cyber-security, releasing internal documents, salary details, film budgets and employee information. North Korea is suspected of being involved in the attack as punishment for “The Interview,” a comedy about the assassination of the country’s dictator, Kim Jong-un.
Morial, who was mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002, said he hopes to meet with Pascal again in January to discuss additional ways to promote diversity and stressed that this is not just a Sony problem. Industrywide, African Americans are inadequately represented in the boardroom and the executive suite.
“What we hoped from today’s meeting is that actions speak louder than words,” said Morial. “We are prepared to work with them in the weeks and days and months ahead to deal with the underlying issues…I hope that we can move in an accelerated way around the issue of diversity in Hollywood,mand I feel Amy is committed to that effort.”
Asked to elaborate on some specific ways greater diversity could be achieved both at Sony and on other studio lots, Morial said that working out such details required more discussion and planning.
“Stay tuned,” he said.