Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos admits he “screwed up” with the handling of employee concerns over Dave Chapelle’s new stand-up special The Closer.
Last week, Sarandos defended the comedian in a memo to employees that said The Closer isn’t “designed to incite hate or violence” and noted that “artistic freedom” is measured differently in stand-up comedy. His latest comments come ahead of the planned employee walkout at the streaming giant on Oct. 20— organized by trans and LGBTQ+ staffers and allies.
“I screwed up that internal communication, “Sarandos said in a new interview about his initial memo to staffers.
“I did that, and I screwed it up in two ways. 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. 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,” he explained.
Adding, “Of course storytelling has real impact in the real world. I reiterate that because it’s why I work here, it’s why we do what we do. That impact can be hugely positive, and it can be quite negative. So, I would have been better in that communication. They were joining a conversation already in progress, but out of context. But that happens, internal emails go out. In all my communications I should lean into the humanity up front and not make a blanket statement that could land very differently than it was intended.”
When asked about the protocol for defining hate speech at Netflix, Sarandos explained: “We are trying to support creative freedom and artistic expression among the artists that work at Netflix. Sometimes, and we do make sure our employees understand this, because of that — because we’re trying to entertain the world, and the world is made up of folks with a lot of different sensibilities and beliefs and senses of humor and all those things — sometimes, there will be things on Netflix that you dislike. That you even find to be harmful. Where we’ll definitely draw the line is 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 went on to make clear that he does not believe Chappelle’s special falls under the company’s definition of hate speech.
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