According to Sarandos, his defense of Chappelle should have “led with more humanity” by acknowledging the “pain and hurt” his employees were feeling due to the company’s decision to host Chappelle’s special.
“I screwed up that internal communication. I did that, and I screwed it up in two ways,” Sarandos told Variety in an interview . “First and foremost, I should have led with a lot more humanity.”
“I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made,” he noted. “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.”
Chappelle’s special heavily mocked and called out the 2 LGBTQIIA+ lobby for its censorious assault on free speech.
Upon the initial backlash, Ted Sarandos defended the comedian’s right to artistic expression while dismissing concerns that his words could lead to “real-world harm.”
“We know that a number of you have been left angry, disappointed and hurt by our decision to put Dave Chappelle’s latest special on Netflix,” Sarandos wrote in a company-wide email. “With The Closer, we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real-world harm.”
“While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm,” he wrote.
Sarandos now believes that he misspoke and agreed with his critics that “storytelling has real impact in the real world.”
Of course storytelling has a 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 humanity up front and not make a blanket statement that could land very differently than it was intended.
What can only be characterized as a splitting of the baby moment, Ted Sarandos reaffirmed his support for artistic freedom while acknowledging the “pain” of his employees.
When asked if The Closer could be classified as “hate speech,” Sarandos insisted that he draws the line “on something that would intentionally call for physically harming other people or even removing protections.” On whether or not Netflix would remove the special, Sarandos said, “I don’t believe there have been many calls to remove it.”
As of this writing, a Change.org petition calling on Netflix to remove the special has over 10,000 signatures.
Going forward, Sarandos pledged that Netflix would “continue to invest enormous amounts of content dollars in LGBTQ+ stories for the world and giving them a global platform.”