Dave Chappelle has been accused of homophobia and transphobia due to his latest Netflix special, The Closer. Despite plenty of support for the comedian on Twitter and also from Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, the backlash has spiraled in recent days. After a series of memos to employees in which he defended Chappelle and the platform’s decision to keep the comedy special, including asserting that “content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm,” Sarandos is now saying he “screwed” up in addressing employee concerns.
On the heels of a walkout by trans employees and allies at Netflix, Sarandos told Variety about his defense of Chappelle, “I screwed up that internal communication. 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.”
He continued, “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.”
Nonetheless, he stands by The Closer and maintains that Chappelle’s comments about trans people do not constitute hate speech, saying, “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.”
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Sarandos maintains Netflix has no plans to remove the special.
This is the 48-year-old’s sixth and final Netflix special. The other specials include The Age Of Spin, Deep in The Heart Of Texas, Equanimity, The Bird Revelation and Sticks & Stones. All six are directed by Emmy-winning director Stan Lathan.