Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos told the Wall Street Journal he “screwed up” in his handling of employee response to The Closer, Dave Chappelle’s latest stand-up comedy special, that includes comments about transgender people viewed by many as offensive.
Sarandos had defended the comedy special from criticism and concerns over the danger of the jokes to trans people by saying, “Content on the screen doesn’t directly translate to real world harm,” according to an email obtained by Variety. He went on to argue that people can watch “shocking stand-up comedy” without being incited to hurt others.
Chappelle’s jokes about trans people, both in general and about specific people he knew, led to an employee backlash, with many pointing out the extreme fatality rates trans people face due to violent crime, especially trans people of color.
“What I should have led with in those emails was humanity,” Sarandos said in an interview with the Journal on Tuesday evening. “I should have recognized the fact that a group of our employees was really hurting.”
Sarandos also conceded that his previous comments about content not causing real-world harm were in error.
“To be clear, storytelling has an impact in the real world…sometimes quite negative,” he said.
Netflix said last week it had fired an employee for leaking internal information to the press about Chappelle’s special. The employee, who hasn’t been named, was a leader of a trans employee resource group and was helping organize a walkout on Oct. 20 in protest of the company’s handling of the Chappelle special, according to a report by The Verge.
Netflix didn’t immediately respond to a request for additional comment.