Ted Sarandos Says ‘I Screwed Up’ as Netflix Walkout Escalates, But Chappelle Will Stay

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has reevaluated his initial response to employees who were offended by Dave Chappelle’s comedy special, The Closer, then further outraged by the response from their employer. “First, right upfront, I screwed up the internal communication – and I don’t mean just mechanically. I feel I should’ve made sure to recognize that a group of our employees was hurting very badly from the decision made, and I should’ve recognized upfront before going into a rationalization of anything the pain they were going through. I say that because I respect them deeply, and I love the contribution they have at Netflix. They were hurting, and I should’ve recognized that first.”

The memo sent to Netflix managers to help navigate the discourse included, “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. 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.”

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GLAAD responded to Sarandos’ memo, stating, “Netflix has a policy that content ‘designed to incite hate or violence’ is not allowed on the platform, but we all know that anti-LGBTQ content does exactly that. 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.”

It was reported that three employees who crashed a quarterly directors’ meeting were suspended, however, Netflix responded, not addressing the suspension of the crashers, with the statement, “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.”

Terra Field was one of the first Netflix employees to speak out via Twitter, saying, “I work at @netflix. Yesterday we launched another Chappelle special where he attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness – all while trying to pit us against other marginalized groups. You’re going to hear a lot of talk about “offense”. We are not offended.”

Dave Chappelle screened his documentary about the comic summer camp he held in Ohio this summer at The Hollywood Bowl soon after the backlash began. He was met by a standing ovation. Doubling down on his stance that Twitter isn’t real, saying “If this is what being canceled is about, I love it.”

Ashlee Marie Preston, who organized the protest and walkout presently taking place outside of Los Angeles’ Netflix headquarters, said today amongst the protesters and counter-protesters, “We’re up against a the emergence of hate economy. And there is this manipulation of algorithmic science that distorts the way that we perceive ourselves and others. And I think that companies like Netflix, Facebook, and Instagram, they play into it, and they monetize on it. And so I think that this is important to show up today.”

As things continue to escalate, Sarandos wanted to clarify saying, “To be clear, storytelling has an impact in the real world…sometimes quite negative. We have articulated to our employees that there are going to be things you don’t like,” he added. “There are going to be things that you might feel are harmful. But we are trying to entertain a world with varying tastes and varying sensibilities and various beliefs, and I think this special was consistent with that.” Sarandos further confirmed, “I’m firmly committed to continue to support artistic freedom for the creators who work with Netflix and increase representation behind the screen and on camera.”

This is far from over, as Dave Chappelle’s The Closer has opened a broader conversation that does not have just two parties participating. As of this article’s completion, protesters, both Netflix employees and supporters, counter-protesters to the walkout, anti-Trans groups, Black Lives Matter protesters, accompanied by other movements have all converged. Stay tuned. This news originated at Deadline with additional reporting from Variety.

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