Netflix CEO says he’ll order Dave Chappelle specials ‘again and again’ despite employee backlash

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Reed Hastings said The Closer, which was criticized for being transphobic, ‘was one of the most entertaining watch specials’ that Netflix has ever had.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on a background of repeating Netflix logos

Laura Normand / The Verge

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the company would order Dave Chappelle’s comedy specials “again and again” at The New York Times’ DealBook Summit on Wednesday. Chappelle’s last comedy special, The Closer, came under fire by employees for being transphobic.

“We’re just trying to be the most exciting entertainment company and more,” Hastings said when asked about how Netflix deals with controversy. “That special was one of the most entertaining watch specials we’ve ever had. We would do it again and again.” Hastings then goes on to describe Chappelle as “very entertaining and provocative,” aligning with Netflix’s overall goal of being “about entertainment.”

Netflix bought The Closer for $24.1 million, and it premiered on the platform last year. While it left many staff members uncomfortable with Chappelle’s jokes about the LGBTQ+ community, Netflix stood by it anyway. This led a group of employees to rally against and openly criticize Netflix’s choice to have the special on the platform. However, Netflix responded by suspending three trans workers, two of whom ended up resigning while another, B. Pagels-Minor, was fired over claims that they leaked confidential information. (Pagels-Minor has denied this claim.)

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said at the time that the platform doesn’t allow titles on Netflix “that are designed to incite hate or violence” but that the company doesn’t believe “The Closer crosses that line.” Sarandos later walked back on this statement and said he “screwed up.” In January, The Verge reported that Netflix had sent recruiters talking points about how to avoid conversations about The Closer with potential employees.

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Emma Roth

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