The head of Netflix is walking back some of his words.
Ahead of a planned walkout at the company by LGBTQ employees and allies over its handling of the controversial Dave Chappelle standup special “The Closer”, Netflix co-SEO Ted Sarandos sat down with Variety to discuss recent events.
In particular, Sarandos admitted to flubbing his initial response to the controversy, which included making comments asserting that “content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”
Speaking now, the executive told Variety, “Obviously, I screwed up that internal communication. I did that, and I screwed it up in two ways. 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. I didn’t do that.”
He added, “That was uncharacteristic for me, and it was moving fast and we were trying to answer some really specific questions that were floating. We landed with some things that were much more blanket and matter-of-fact that are not at all accurate.”
Sarandos also clarified his position on the real-world impacts of the art and content they produce and stream for audiences.
“Storytelling has 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,” he said, adding later, “In all my communications I should lean into the humanity up front and not make a blanket statement that could land very differently than it was intended.”
Sarandos also reiterated his position on keeping the Chappelle special on the platform, explaining that he does not believe the comedian’s anti-trans comments constitute hate speech.
“Under the definition of ‘does it intend to cause physical harm?’ I do not believe it falls into hate speech,” he explained. “I don’t believe there have been many calls to remove it.”