Ted Sarandos Sticks by Chappelle Stance but Says 'I Screwed Up'

Ted Sarandos Sticks by Chappelle Stance but Says 'I Screwed Up'

October 20, 2021

Netflix co-CEO’s mea cupla comes on the eve of a planned employee rally and walkout

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said that he “screwed up” when he attempted to calm employees who were upset and outraged about Dave Chappelle’s transphobic remarks in his latest comedy special “The Closer.”

“What I should have led with in those emails was humanity,” Sarandos told the Wall Street Journal Tuesday. “I should have recognized the fact that a group of our employees was really hurting.”

Clarifying his remarks that content does not cause real-world harm, Sarandos said his comment oversimplified and lacked humanity. “To be clear, storytelling has an impact in the real world…sometimes quite negative,” he told WSJ,

Chappelle came under fire from prominent social justice organizations earlier this month for jokes targeting trans and other LGBTQ+ people in his new special. “Gender is a fact,” he says at one point in the half-hour set. “Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth.” Chappelle then joked about the genitalia of trans women, which he described as “not what it is.”

Although Sarandos felt the heat, he said on Oct. 11 in a memo to employees that he would not take down Chappelle’s special, writing, “We don’t allow titles (on) Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line.” He went on to say that artistic freedom” is different for stand-up comedy than it is for other forms of expression.

GLAAD immediately released a statement, saying in part, “While Netflix is home to groundbreaking LGBTQ stories, now is the time for Netflix execs to listen to LGBTQ employees, industry leaders, and audiences and commit to living up to their own standards.”

Later the same day, three employees — including one trans person — who crashed a quarterly directors meeting to speak out against Chappelle’s stand-up special were suspended the same day. However, a Netflix spokesperson told TheWrap that “it is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show. Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so.”

With the dust not coming close to settling, a group of Netflix employees announced they were planning a company-wide walkout on Oct. 20 to protest the company’s handling of concerns over “The Closer,” according to reports from The Los Angeles Times. The group includes both transgender employees and allies.

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