Ted Sarandos Defends Comic Dave Chappelle Over Controversial Netflix Special

Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos is defending the streamer’s decision to keep “The Closer,” an original new stand-up special featuring comic Dave Chappelle on the platform. The program has drawn protests regarding Chappelle’s comments about the transgender community.

Specifically, Chappelle, in the special, defends “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, who has criticized transgenders and claimed they represent a threat to her own gender identity.

“They canceled J.K. Rowling – my God,” Chappelle says on the program. “Effectually she said gender was a fact, the trans community got mad as [expletive], they started calling her a TERF [“trans exclusionary radical feminist”] … I’m Team TERF. I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact.”

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In an Oct. 8 staff memo, Sarandos reportedly said Chappelle is known for controversial comments — and generating lots of viewers. Netflix’s previous Chappelle special (the fifth under a long-term deal), “Sticks & Stones,” was one of the “stickiest” stand-up specials, according to the executive.

“Several of you have asked where we draw the line on hate,” Sarandos wrote. “We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe ‘The Closer’ crosses that line.”

Sarandos said he understands that distinguishing between commentary and harm is difficult, especially with stand-up comedy, which exists to push boundaries.

“Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited, but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering,” he wrote.

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