Netflix Boss Admits He "Screwed Up" for Defending Dave Chappelle, Won't Remove Special from Streaming
Co-CEO Ted Sarandos addresses the fallout from the comedian's 'The Closer'
Published Oct 20, 2021Amid immense internal and external criticism for comedian Dave Chappelle's transphobic commentary in his new special The Closer, Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos says he "screwed up" in handling employee concerns regarding hate speech.
Speaking with Variety ahead of a planned walkout by trans and LGBTQ+ staffers and their allies at the streaming giant, Sarandos admitted his regrets about how the company has handled its processing of the situation.
"Obviously, I screwed up that internal communication," the CEO said. "I did that, and I screwed it up in two ways: first and foremost, I should have led with a lot more humanity — meaning, I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made, and I think that needs to be acknowledged up front before you get into the nuts and bolts of anything. I didn't do that."
Sarandos continued on to say that his "blanket statements" in response to specific concerns expressed by Netflix employees might have landed differently than intended. "Of course storytelling has real impact in the real world," he said. "I reiterate that because it's why I work here; it's why we do what we do. That impact can be hugely positive, and it can be quite negative."
When asked about the company's protocol for defining hate speech, the CEO said:
We are trying to support creative freedom and artistic expression among the artists that work at Netflix. Sometimes, and we do make sure our employees understand this, because of that — because we're trying to entertain the world, and the world is made up of folks with a lot of different sensibilities and beliefs and senses of humour and all those things — sometimes, there will be things on Netflix that you dislike; that you even find to be harmful. Where we'll definitely draw the line is on something that would intentionally call for physically harming other people or even remove protections. For me, intent to cause physical harm crosses the line for sure.
Sarandos added that, under this definition, he believes The Closer doesn't fall under hate speech and will remain on the streaming service.
In the special, Chappelle defends J.K. Rowling's anti-trans stance and calls himself a TERF, as well as continuing to pit racism and anti-LGBTQ+ against each other. He also joked that renowned homophobe DaBaby "punched the LGBT community right in the AIDS" with his controversial comments at Rolling Loud Miami.
Netflix has since fired an employee — the initial organizer of the walkout — for leaking financial data about The Closer.