Embarrassing, racially tinged emails about President Barack Obama's imagined movie tastes, leaked by hackers and published by Internet gossip sites, prompted public apologies Thursday from Sony Pictures Entertainment's movie chief and one of its top producers.
"To anybody I've offended, I'm profoundly and deeply sorry, and I regret and apologise for any injury they might have caused," the film producer Scott Rudin said in a statement after the disclosure of his private email banter with Amy Pascal, Sony's co-chairwoman, about Mr Obama and black-themed films. "I made a series of remarks that were meant only to be funny, but in the cold light of day, they are in fact thoughtless and insensitive - and not funny at all."
Ms Pascal said in her own statement: “The content of my emails to Scott were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am. Although this was a private communication that was stolen, I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologise to everyone who was offended.”
The email exchange in question took place before Ms Pascal attended a breakfast for Mr Obama that was organised by Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chief executive of DreamWorks Animation.
"What should I ask the president at this stupid Jeffrey breakfast?" Ms Pascal asked Mr Rudin in an opening query. She then speculated that she might ask if Mr Obama liked "Django Unchained," about a bounty-hunting ex-slave. Rudin countered with a suggestion about "12 Years a Slave," while Ms Pascal suggested other films involving African-Americans.
Finally, Mr Rudin wrote: "Ride-along. I bet he likes Kevin Hart. " The email referred to a comedy from Universal Pictures that starred Hart and Ice Cube. Mr Rudin, who has been a producer of films like "Captain Phillips" and "The Social Network" for Sony, added in his apology, first posted on Deadline. com, that "private emails between friends and colleagues written in haste and without much thought or sensitivity, even when the content of them is meant to be in jest, can result in offense where none was intended."
The emails were disclosed as part of a continuing dump of documents by hackers who attacked Sony's computer systems, beginning in late November. In a separate email exchange, also disclosed online, another Sony executive, Clint Culpepper, used harsh language in suggesting that the studio rebuff a salary demand from Hart, who has starred in several films for the company's Screen Gems unit, including a coming movie, "The Wedding Ringer."
“I’m not saying he’s a whore, but he’s a whore,“ Mr Culpepper wrote. Representatives of the studio did not comment on Mr Culpepper‘s remarks. One person briefed on Mr Hart’s reaction said the actor has long been familiar with Mr Culpepper’s penchant for “colorful“ language. People familiar with Sony’s response to the attack, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to comment publicly, have said they expected to face further unauthorised disclosures in the days ahead.