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Ted Sarandos Said He ‘Screwed Up’ on Transgender Debate

Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos says he “screwed up” handling the controversy regarding stand-up comic Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special The Closer — now streaming on the SVOD platform.

Chappelle, who has a long-term contract with Netflix, drew criticism from LGBTQ groups over comments he made regarding transgender people, remarks some observers — including Netflix’s transgender employees — viewed as hurtful and discriminatory.

The streamer’s trans employee resource group has a planned Oct. 20 virtual walkout in protest.

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In an Oct. 19 media interview, Sarandos said he should have realized that initial comments supporting freedom of speech and “artistic expression” could hurt some people.

“I 100% believe that content on screen can have impact in the real world, positive and negative,” he said. “I should have first and foremost acknowledged in those [company memos] that a group of our employees were in pain, and they were really feeling hurt from a business decision that we made.”

Sarandos said the internal memos, one of which was leaked to the media resulting in the firing of the Netflix employee who leaked it, were clumsily handled. That said, the CCO said there were no plans to pull Chappelle’s special (which ranks No. 3 on the platform), arguing there would always be content on Netflix that would offend some audiences.

“We’re deeply committed to the culture of transparency [within Netflix],” Sarandos said. “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.”

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