LOS ANGELES — Husam “Sam” Asi, a longstanding member the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, is suing the organization over a battery of claims, including sexual harassment, discrimination and breach of contract.
The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, comes three months after the HFPA, the group behind the Golden Globes, put Asi on probation following allegations of sexual misconduct, prompting a third-party investigation into him.
Asi’s suit alleges that the HFPA is “weaponizing false sexual misconduct allegations” in retaliation for “his attempts to hold it accountable.”
He said he was personally and professionally damaged by the HFPA investigation, adding that he was placed on probation with the BBC and his newspaper and lost his source of income.
In February the Wrap reported that three women alleged that Asi — who represents the United Kingdom and the Middle East for the association and is a Palestinian journalist for the BBC Arabic service and a columnist for Pan Arab newspaper Al-Quds Al Arabi — “abused their trust by turning professional situations into sexualized encounters.”
Asi called the misconduct allegations against him baseless. “Of course, I deny them, I deny them all, they are ludicrously absurd,” he told the L.A. Times in February.
According to his lawsuit, Asi, a member of the HFPA since 2010, contends that he has “been subjected to and endured a pattern of sexual harassment, hostile behavior, racial epithets and discrimination, and retaliatory conduct, none of which was ever investigated or handled according to HFPA’s bylaws and procedures.”
HFPA spokesman James Lee said he could not comment because he had not seen the lawsuit.
Among the allegations outlined in the suit, Asi claims that that on more than one occasion during news conferences, an HFPA board member, “grabbed” his “buttocks.” This same member also invited him to her house to “teach him how to do ‘good sex.’”
Further, Asi alleges that he was subjected to several offensive comments from HFPA members, including being referred to as a “terrorist.”
The suit alleges that when Asi asked the association’s former president, the late Lorenzo Soria, why he wasn’t given any jobs working on the Golden Globes website or any committee positions for seven years, he was told it was because he was “an ‘angry Arab.’”
In another instance, the suit claims that an HFPA member allegedly told Asi, “‘I hate Jews more than you do’, falsely assuming that, because of his ethnicity, Dr. Asi hates Jewish people. Dr. Asi was then told by the same HFPA member that Jewish members were scheming to get him expelled from HFPA, which later turned out not to be true.”
Last year, the L.A. Times reported that Asi called out the HFPA over its own conduct concerning race. During a meeting in 2020, following the murder of Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests that erupted across the country to discuss hiring a diversity consultant, Asi told the group that he’d worked in many different countries in many different fields, but that he’d never encountered as many “racist comments” as he had in the HFPA.
“I always have to explain and defend who I am ... my ethnicity and the people I came from or even the religion.” He added, “I heard from other members who also encountered this problem.”
The group voted not to hire a diversity consultant at that time. The HFPA hired a diversity officer last year.
Asi’s lawsuit further alleges that when he created a website for HFPA members “to increase transparency,” the board shut it down last March “to prevent leaks.”
”HFPA’s current leadership and President heavily rely on Goeckner and Lee,” says the suit in reference to Greg Goeckner, the HFPA’s longtime COO and lawyer, and Lee, its crisis public relations consultant. “They do not question their decisions or motivations despite evidence of self-dealing.”
According to the suit, Asi is being used as a scapegoat because, “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.”
The suit comes as the HFPA attempts to move beyond the controversy sparked by the L.A. Times investigation last February that raised questions of ethical and financial lapses, and revealed that the then-87-member association did not have any Black members.
NBC chose not to broadcast the Golden Globes this year as the HFPA announced several reform measures, including adopting new bylaws, establishing a new code of conduct, expanding the group’s membership and opening an anonymous hotline for complaints about members.
The organization has been at odds over a proposal by interim CEO Todd Boehly that will effectively transform the nonprofit international journalists’ group into a for-profit venture.
———©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.