Brendan Fraser’s Sexual Assault Was a ‘Joke’ According to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has been one of the biggest punchlines in Hollywood ever since it gave 1982’s Golden Globe Award for Best New Star to the “spectacularly inept” Pia Zadora. Unfortunately you’d think that would mean it would know from jokes, but a new exposé has shown that the HFPA is humorously — and morally — impaired. After Brendan Fraser came out about sexual assault he experienced at the hands of former HFPA president Philip Berk, the organization closed its investigation, calling the incident a “joke.”

In Feburary, GQ magazine ran a feature profile — “What Ever Happened to Brendan Fraser?” — which looked at why the once-promising movie star seemed to have all but disappeared. In the article, Fraser describes a 2003 incident in which Berk groped him at an official HFPA luncheon. Fraser says “[Berk’s] left hand reaches around, grabs my ass cheek, and one of his fingers touches me in the taint. And he starts moving it around.”

philip berk brendan fraser
Philip Berk (Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

That the incident took place isn’t in question. Berk himself wrote about it in his memoir, With Signs and Wonders, and Sharon Waxman in The New York Times reported on it. Somehow, however, the HFPA claimed it didn’t know about it, though it promised an investigation.

Today, GQ followed up with Brendan Fraser, and the HFPA determined that Berk’s version of the story — that Berk had grabbed Fraser’s ass in jest, making a reference to a (fake) gossip item he’d heard about Fraser doing the same thing to someone else — was the correct one.

Fraser says the HFPA offered to issue a joint statement between the both of them reading “Although it was concluded that Mr. Berk inappropriately touched Mr. Fraser, the evidence supports that it was intended to be taken as a joke and not as a sexual advance. … All parties consider this matter to be concluded.”

Fraser refused to sign, saying, “I don’t get the joke,” adding “I’m the only one who would know where I was touched on my body.” Fraser also said the HFPA refused to share the results of its investigation or how it determined Berk was telling the truth. Berk also said he wasn’t shown the report but was told “the statement would absolve [Berk] of any wrongdoing.” Berk also says he faced no disciplinary action from the HFPA.

This afternoon, the HFPA released a statement addressing the second GQ article:

The HFPA continues to stand firmly against sexual harassment. As such, we have always taken Brendan Fraser’s allegations very seriously — both when he originally spoke out in 2003 and now again 15 years later. Back then, after an initial inquiry, we provided Mr. Fraser with the exact redress he sought — an acknowledgement of the transgression and an apology. Mr. Fraser continued to attend HFPA events including the Golden Globes. When Mr. Fraser raised the allegations again this year in the March issue of GQ, adding several previously unknown details, we conducted an internal review and then took it upon ourselves to commission an independent investigation into the matter to ensure impartiality. We’ve shared the results of that investigation with Mr. Fraser, and again apologized, but also conveyed our need to abide by the investigation’s finding that the exchange was not an intended sexual advance. We want to reiterate that the HFPA understands today — as it did 15 years ago — that what Mr. Fraser experienced was inappropriate.

Berk remains a voting member of the HFPA.

What do you think of the HFPA dismissing Brendan Fraser’s claims that Philip Berk sexually assaulted him? Let us know in the comments.

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