Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos denies Dave Chappelle special causes ‘real-world harm’ – Marin Independent Journal

By Mary Biekert | Bloomberg

Netflix Inc. co-CEO Ted Sarandos again defended the company’s decision to air a controversial Dave Chappelle comedy special featuring jokes about transgender people, denying that it would lead to “real-world harm,” he wrote into an email to staff Monday.

“Chappelle makes harsh jokes about many different groups, which is his style and a reason his fans love his comedy and commentary,” Sarandos wrote in an email obtained by Variety. “Stand-up comedians often expose issues that are uncomfortable because the art by nature is a highly provocative. As a leadership team, we do not believe that The Closer is intended to incite hatred or violence against anyone.”

Netflix has come under fire the past week for airing Dave Chappelle’s “The Closer,” which has drawn criticism both internally at the company and across the internet. Transgender employees at Netflix are planning a walkout next week to protest the company’s decision to air the show after some employees raised concerns about the material before the show debuted last week. The company’s leaders, including global head of TV Bela Bajaria and Sarandos, decided the show didn’t cross any lines.

Transgender writer-producer of the Netflix series “Dear White People” Jaclyn Moore last week said she would no longer work for the streaming service, while Terra Field, a senior software engineer for the company, took to Twitter to voice her concerns through a string of tweets that went viral. The company on Monday suspended Field and two other employees for allegedly crashing an executive meeting last week; Field has since been reinstated, according to tweets she posted Tuesday.

More than 1,000 people have called or messaged the company to complain about the special in the few days since it was released, a person familiar with those metrics told Bloomberg this week. That’s more complaints than Chappelle’s previous special “Sticks & Stones,” but less than other controversial shows such as “ Cuties.”

In a different memo Sarandos wrote to staff Friday in response to the show’s backlash, Sarandos lauded Chappelle as the most-watched comedian on Netflix and told staff the company has a long-standing deal with the comedian, stating Chappelle’s last special was one of the streaming platform’s “most watched, stickiest and most award winning stand-up special to date.”

Ten million people have streamed “The Closer” since its debut on Oct. 5, according to a person familiar with viewer numbers. Co-CEO Reed Hastings said in an internal message board that Netflix will “continue to work with Dave Chappelle in the future,” according to transcripts reviewed by Bloomberg News.

This is not the first time one of his specials has angered the trans community, or Netflix employees. Members of both the Black @ Netflix and Trans* employee groups have previously met with company leadership to discuss another Chappelle special and to express dismay that the company continues to release programming with transphobic sentiments.

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