Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has said he "screwed up" communication with employees following a backlash over Dave Chappelle's The Closer, according to Variety. At the same time, he stood by the show, saying the company heavily values "artistic expression." His comments come just ahead of a planned walkout organized by LGBTQ+ staffers, creatives and allies.
After debuting earlier this month, The Closer was met by a storm of criticism from the LGBTQ+ community, who called it transphobic. At the time, he told employees that Netflix would never allow titles "that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don't believe The Closer crosses that line."
Now, Sarandos has said he regrets the way he handled the situation with employees. "Obviously, I screwed up that internal communication," he said in an interview with 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."
At the same time, Sarandos said in a separate interview that "my stance hasn't changed" regarding to the decision to stream the special. "We do tell our employees upfront that we are trying to entertain our members, and that some of the content on Netflix you're not going to like," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "The inclusion of the special on Netflix is consistent with our comedy offering [and is]… one of those times when there's something on Netflix that you're not going to like."
As part of the walkout, employees will reportedly have a list of demands for Netflix, and Sarandos has been meeting them to hear their views. He said that while the company is "deeply committed to inclusion," it's equally committed to "supporting artistic freedom with the creators who work at Netflix." He added that Netflix would not add a disclaimer in front of the special as employees requested, reasoning that Chappelle himself gives a warning at the beginning.
Sarandos also addressed the issue of transparency in the company after an employee was fired for leaking internal company documents showing viewer figures for Netflix shows, including Chappelle's previous special. "We're deeply committed to the culture of transparency," he told THR. "And it also depends upon a great deal of trust with our employees that we continue to secure, but we don't plan on changing any of our internal operations around that."