Netflix Co-CEO Reed Hastings Offers No Comment On Dave Chappelle Controversy

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 06: Dave Chappelle attends the Netflix FYSEE Kick-Off at Netflix FYSEE at Raleigh Studios on May 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings skirted questions regarding Dave Chappelle’s controversial standup comedy special at the Milken Conference yesterday. Chappelle’s special, which debuted on the streaming platform on Oct. 5, has been criticized by fans and activist groups, such as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), for “ridiculing trans people and other marginalized communities.”

During an interview about his philanthropy, Hastings said he had “no comment” on the matter and that he was focused on “what we can do for kids around the country and working on that” [h/t CNBC].

In addition to the public outcry, the special has sparked outrage within Netflix; trans employees and their allies have planned a walkout on Oct. 20 to protest the show and co-CEO Ted Sarandos’ comments that “we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”

“Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long-standing deal with him. His last special ‘Sticks & Stones,’ also controversial, is our most-watched, stickiest, and most award-winning stand-up special to date,” Sarandos wrote in a memo. “As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.”

On Oct. 11, three employees were suspended for joining an executive meeting uninvited, although they were all reinstated a day later after it was determined “there was no ill-intent,” according to Terra Field, a trans Netflix engineer who was among those suspended.

Netflix stars such as Jameela Jamila and Jonathan Van Ness plan to support the “Stand Up in Solidarity” walkout in Hollywood.