Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos is attempting to walk back a memo he sent to the company’s employees in which he defended comedian Dave Chappelle’s controversial new special “The Closer,” saying he “screwed up” in choosing his words.
That said, the executive still said he supports Chappelle and his company’s association with the comedian.
“No, my stance hasn’t changed. I can tell you I screwed up those communications in two ways,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
“One of them was, I should have first and foremost acknowledged in those emails that a group of our employees were in pain, and they were really feeling hurt from a business decision that we made,” Sarandos continued.
“And I, instead of acknowledging that first, I went right into some rationales. And so first of all, I’d say those emails lacked humanity, in which I like to and I do generally communicate with our teams,” he added.
“I would say the other one was that — this is the problem when you have a leaked email out of context, is it’s part of a conversation already in progress, and that line of causing harm in the real world was way over-simplistic and talking about something very specific that we were talking about earlier that day,” Sarandos noted further in discussing the leaked internal memo.
“So it was just very clumsy, internal communications that went public,” he added.
In the memo, Sarandos took up for Chappelle and, specifically, his company’s longtime association with him
“Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him. His last special ‘Sticks & Stones,’ also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest and most award winning stand-up special to date,” he wrote.
But the defense of Chappelle upset several transgender employees at Netflix who were offended by jokes the comedian made during his special, which began airing earlier this month.
At one point during his special, Chappelle sided with Harry Potter creator and author J.K. Rowling, who has frequently pushed back on transgenderism.
“Gender is a fact. I’m team TERF,” said the comedian, referencing the phrase trans-exclusionary radical feminist, which is used to describe women who aren’t completely on board with their calls for equality.
Sarandos’ comments come as trans staffers at Netflix planned to stage a walkout on Wednesday to protest his previous memo and Chappelle’s special.
“Trans Lives Matter. Trans Rights Matter. And as an organization, Netflix has continually failed to show deep care in our mission to Entertain the World by repeatedly releasing content that harms the Trans community and continually failing to create content that represents and uplifts Trans content. We can and must do better!” wrote a leader for the trans employee resource group in an internal organizing post last week.
“As we’ve discussed through Slack, email, text, and everything in between our leadership has shown us they do not uphold the values to which we are held. Between the numerous emails and non-answers that have been given, we have been told explicitly that we somehow cannot understand the nuance of certain content,” added the walkout announcement.
Terra Field, a trans staffer at the streaming network, was suspended along with two other workers earlier this month after they crashed a business meeting they were not invited to, in protest of the special. Field, a senior software engineer, also posted a critical Twitter thread referencing Chappelle’s recent special.
The company reinstated all of them shortly afterward.
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