Top Netflix Boss Says He ‘Screwed Up’ With Blanket Defense Of Chappelle Special

Co-CEO Ted Sarandos said he should have addressed employees with "more humanity," but didn't regret the decision to air the special.

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos admitted Tuesday that he “screwed up” with his blanket defense of comedian Dave Chappelle in emails sent to employees earlier this month.

Sarandos’s comments to The Wall Street Journal and Variety were published on the night before a group of transgender employees at Netflix plan to stage a company-wide walkout over the special, called “The Closer.” In it, Chappelle makes derogatory remarks about the LGBTQ community and defends offensive comments towards transgender people made by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and the rapper DaBaby.

“Obviously, I screwed up that internal communication,” Sarandos told Variety. “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.”

Ted Sarandos said he should have addressed Netflix employees with "more humanity," but didn't regret the decision to air the special.
Ted Sarandos said he should have addressed Netflix employees with "more humanity," but didn't regret the decision to air the special.
via Associated Press

Sarandos also told the Journal that there were no plans to remove “The Closer” from the streaming service and that he hadn’t second-guessed his decision to air it.

“We have articulated to our employees that there are going to be things you don’t like,” Sarandos said. “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.”

Last week, Sarandos sent a memo to the entire Netflix staff saying that while some employees may have been “left angry, disappointed and hurt” by Chappelle’s remarks, Sarandos didn’t believe the content translated to “real-world harm.”

Media watchdogs and those in the LGBTQ community disagreed, with the advocacy group GLAAD noting film and TV had been “filled with stereotypes and misinformation about us for decades” that has led to real-world harm, “especially for trans people and LGBTQ people of color.”

Chappelle has largely brushed off criticism of his jokes, adding that he loves being canceled. Leaked documents showed Netflix paid more than $24 million for the special.