A member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association sued the organization on Wednesday, claiming he was sexually harassed and called a “terrorist” and an “angry Arab” by members of the group.
Husam “Sam” Asi is a presenter on BBC Arabic, and has been a member of the HFPA since 2010. He was put on probation in February after The Wrap reported that three women had accused him of sexual misconduct.
In the lawsuit, Asi says that the allegations against him are false, and that they were “weaponized” by the HFPA to retaliate against him for holding the leadership accountable. Asi says that he was also placed on probation by the BBC and by his newspaper, Al Quds Al Arabi, and was forced to pay for his own credential to attend the Cannes Film Festival.
The HFPA puts on the Golden Globes, and is still trying to repair the damage done by a 2021 Los Angeles Times investigation, which revealed potential financial improprieties and the fact that the organization did not have any Black members. NBC opted not to broadcast 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 have been critical of the group, saying at a meeting in July 2020 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 put out a press release stating that it was putting him on probation without investigating first or notifying him, and in violation of its own confidentiality rules.
“This is not customary practice for HFPA,” the lawsuit states. “The most logical explanation is that the HFPA, under fire in the Los Angeles Times and other media for failing so miserably to keep its house in order, is using the false claims against Dr. Asi as an opportunity to make it appear as if it takes allegations seriously and is changing its culture.”
Asi says that while he has cooperated with the internal investigation, the HFPA has dragged its feet, thus prolonging the harms he has suffered.
The suit also says that the organization failed to investigate incidents of sexual harassment and racist comments that were directed at him. In particular, Asi alleges that an HFPA board member grabbed his buttocks more than once, and invited him to her home to teach him how to do “good sex.” He alleges that another HFPA member kissed him and put her tongue in his mouth, and that a former member offered to show him videos of her and her boyfriend having sex as a form of “sex instruction.” All of this was without his consent, the suit alleges.
Asi, who is Muslim and of Palestinian origin, also alleges that HFPA leadership repeatedly called him a “terrorist” and an “angry Arab.” He says his complaints were not investigated.
An HFPA spokesman said the organization had not been served with the lawsuit.
“The HFPA is not in receipt of this suit however our position remains the same that a member has been accused by a third party of significant and serious charges. We have a disciplinary review process involving a comprehensive investigation by an outside firm that all members are subject to. We will respect the integrity of the investigative process and await its findings before determining what course of action to take,” the spokesperson said.