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Netflix Head Honcho Opens Up About Dave Chappelle Special Decision And What Happened When The Internal Email Leaked

Dave Chappelle in The Closer on Netflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

Recently, Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special The Closer drew complaints after several viewers professed his comments in support of J.K. Rowling to be transphobic. LGBTQ+ activists even petitioned Netflix to remove the special from the streaming platform. Now, in the wake of several leaked emails in which co-CEO Ted Sarandos shared why the streaming service would not be pulling The Closer, he is opening up about the decision, as well as his handling of the situation

After LGBTQ+ fans and Netflix actors called for the company to pull Dave Chappelle’s The Closer, co-CEO Ted Sarandos sent a series of internal emails revealing that the company was not planning to remove the program. He also defended the choice, with snippets from the leaked email allegedly noting The Closer did not “directly translate to real-world harm.” However, those emails were leaked to the public, prompting further media backlash. In an exclusive interview with Deadline, Ted Sarandos took the time to explain his decisions. He has admitted to poor company communication, saying: 

First, right upfront, I screwed up the internal communication — and I don’t mean just mechanically. I feel I should’ve made sure to recognize that a group of our employees was hurting very badly from the decision made, and I should’ve recognized upfront before going into a rationalization of anything the pain they were going through. I say that because I respect them deeply, and I love the contribution they have at Netflix. They were hurting, and I should’ve recognized that first.

According to THR, Ted Sarandos’ initial email memos convinced a faction of Netflix employees to organize a virtual walkout. The Netflix co-CEO recognized that his communication may have been inappropriate for the situation, but also says that the leaked messages led to an inaccurate reduction of his views. He said: 

We are in uncharted grounds here, we have never had internal emails leaked to the press before, and I would say that the issue with that is, they were a conversation in progress. That’s one email, and when you look at it and say, it was meant to ask a very specific question and landed like a big blanket statement. And the big blanket statement should’ve been, of course storytelling has an impact on the real world — sometimes positive and sometimes negative. That is why I work here, that content actually can make the world a better place through our storytelling, through onscreen representation and all those things. So it was a gross simplification. And It didn’t land where it should have, which is, there was a conversation about the one-to-one impact of a certain piece of content. It came out with a very blanket statement that storytelling doesn’t have impact on the real world which is the opposite of everything I’ve ever said, thought or felt.

Ted Sarandos also revealed that he was surprised by the response to The Closer, but only due to Netflix’s unofficial policy of free speech and creative expression.  He also spoke out about Netflix's audience in general, touching on the company's ideas toward intellectual freedom and how those ideas have played out in Netflix content while still maintaining a "safe workspace" on the business side of things. 

It’s impossible to please everybody but we are trying to please a world that is made of people of different tastes, sensibilities and beliefs, and it becomes very difficult to do that for everybody. We have stated it internally that we are going to have some things on Netflix that you don’t like. There are some things on Netflix that may be harmful to you, your colleagues and your friends but we are trying to entertain the world and make business decisions that are protective of creative freedom and artists and also respectful, safe workspace.

Dave Chappelle's The Closer initially hit Netflix on October 5 and Netflix has maintained its availability in the time since. However, as this story continues to play out CinemaBlend will keep you updated. 

Rachel Romean

Actor, singer, and occasional dancer. Likes: fashion, books, old buildings. Dislikes: cilantro, the NJ Turnpike, sneaker wedges.