A few hours before a planned walkout from Netflix’s trans and allied workers community over comments made by Dave Chappelle, the company co CEO Ted Sarandos said he “screwed up” over his response to employees over outrage from within the company.
Earlier this month, Chappelle’s The Closer debuted on the streaming service and immediately came under fire from members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community including Netflix employees. The show was criticized for being transphobic. So far, Sarandos stood by Chappelle, telling employees Netflix doesn’t allow titles on its service “that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line.”
In an interview, Sarandos said he “should have led with a lot more humanity” in his internal responses to his employees, though he continues to defend the special on the grounds of “creative freedom and artistic expression.”
He said “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. That was uncharacteristic for me, and it was moving fast and we were trying to answer some really specific questions that were floating. We landed with some things that were much more blanket and matter-of-fact that are not at all accurate.”
Sarandos was asked to define how Netflix defines hate speech and Sarandos said that the company draws the line “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 has done a couple of interviews after the mess up where he met with Netflix employees and discussed their take on the special episode. Every time, he repeatedly reiterated that the company heavily values what he characterized as “artistic expression” and adds that Netflix would continue to stand by that position as part of its ethos. This stance further ignited the fire.