Bob Gersh on Kanye West’s Anti-Semitism: ‘It Doesn’t Get Any Higher’

By | October 24, 2022

Hollywood talent agents are famously competitive with each other. Whether big or boutique, agencies are busy screening talent and sealing deals.

But some issues transcend money and ego. Hate speech is one of them.

In the year Bob Gersh, the longtime head of the agency founded by his father in the 1960s, has watched Kanye West’s vile anti-Semitic outbursts for the past two weeks with great dismay. On Saturday, the head of the Gersh agency contacted them. Difference Ari Emanuel, CEO of Endeavor, called on businesses to condemn and sever ties with the West. That list includes Apple, Spotify and Adidas. West’s Twitter and Instagram accounts were banned due to the nature of his comments about Jews.

“This is as low as it gets,” Gersh said Difference West’s recent comments. “This is the most blatant hatred and anti-Semitism one can imagine. It doesn’t get worse than that. People need to hit these companies with him so they realize how wrong it is to support someone like this.”

In a scathing op-ed in the Financial Times, Gersh praised his long-time rival for making a strong case for why industry leaders should step up, saying: “Business silence is not a choice for Kanye West’s anti-Semitism.”

“This is a time in history when the stakes are high and it’s important to be open about our values ​​and live them. Silence and inaction is not an option,” Emmanuel wrote. “That’s why we have to speak for all of us. No matter how much money is at stake, hatred and anti-Semitism must have no place in our society.

Gersh called Emanuel’s position “just right” to take on his longtime rival in a public position. The uproar over West’s statements has cost him ties with the Balenciaga fashion house, which confirmed on Friday that it was ending business with West.

As for the importance of decision makers, Gersh points to the dark legacy of Hollywood’s Blacklist era of the 1940s and ’50s. His father, legendary Ten Cent boss Phil Gersh, represented screenwriters who were part of the Hollywood 10, notably Abraham Polonsky, Albert Malt and Edward Dmytryk.

“People didn’t talk back then and people’s careers were ruined,” Gersh said of the McCarthy-era anti-communist witch hunts.

Famous Artists, a thriving organization run by Phil Gersh in the late 1950s, also aided the early career of Harry Belafonte, who was quick to support the celebrity for civil rights and social justice causes. Bob Gersh grew up seeing Belafonte perform and speak at events around Los Angeles, along with his brother and business partner David Gersh.

“Dad set the tone for our business and our world,” said Bob Gersh. “By supporting Belafonte and Hollywood 10 writer-directors with those values, that’s a great legacy for our business and we’ve tried to continue that.”

At the time, Gersh cited actors David Schwimmer and Mandy Moore as clients supported by the agency in their activities. And a number of Gersh-backed showrunners have been involved in drafting a statement of reproductive rights expected of networks and studios following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“People need to speak up. We can’t stay silent and continue to face it like abortion. We can’t give up. We need to talk about it after a month or two.

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