Netflix CEO admits he ‘screwed up’ in defence of Dave Chappelle over controversial special

A Netflix CEO said he ‘screwed up’ with ‘internal communication’ (Picture: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

One of the co-CEOs of Netflix has admitted he ‘screwed up’ in his defence of Dave Chappelle’s highly controversial special on the streaming platform, saying he should have ‘led with a lot more humanity’.

Earlier this month, Chappelle’s latest special The Closer was released, immediately sparking backlash over trans jokes, during which he shared his support for JK Rowling, said that he was ‘team Terf’ (which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist’ and said that ‘gender is fact’.

Following calls from viewers to remove the programme, Chappelle, 48, described the criticism as ‘dumbass’, while co-CEO Ted Sarandos defended the comedian, reportedly stating in a memo sent to Netflix staff members: ‘As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom – even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.’

In a new interview, Sarandos said that he ‘screwed up’ regarding ‘internal communication’ at the company over the contentious response to the special.

‘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,’ he told Variety.

‘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.’

Ted Sarandos doesn’t believe there is a need for the special to be edited (Picture: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Sarandos added that because Netflix supports ‘creative freedom and artistic expression among the artists’ that work with the firm, ‘sometimes, there will be things on Netflix that you dislike. That you even find harmful’.

He said that the company ‘draws the line’ when something has made a ‘call for physically harming other people or even remove protections’.

Sarandos said that he doesn’t believe The Closer falls under the definition of hate speech, adding that he doesn’t think there have been ‘many calls’ to take it down.

In another interview with Deadline, he said that he doesn’t believe a ‘warning card or an edit’ of the special on Netflix ‘would’ve been appropriate’.

Following the release of Chappelle’s The Closer, it’s been reported that a walk-out of Netflix employees has been planned for Wednesday this week, with more than 1,000 staff members said to be taking part.

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Earlier this week, Netflix confirmed that the company fired an employee for allegedly leaking internal data about the special, saying in a statement: ‘We understand this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company.’

The Closer marks Chappelle’s sixth special with Netflix after he signed a multi-million dollar deal with the streaming giant in 2016.

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