By Helen Coster
– Editor’s note: Attention to strong language in paragraph 4 that could offend some readers
Comedian Dave Chappelle on Monday addressed the transgender controversy at Netflix https://www.reuters.com/business/media-telecom/netflix-workers-stage-walk-out-over-chappelle-transgender-comments-2021-10-20 in full for the first time on a video on his Instagram account, five days after about 100 people protested near the streaming company’s headquarters.
The employee backlash began after Netflix Inc decided to release Chappelle’s new comedy special, “The Closer,” which critics say ridicules transgender people.
“It’s been said in the press that I was invited to speak to transgender employees at Netflix and I refused,” Chappelle said in the video. “That is not true. If they had invited me I would have accepted it. Although I am confused about what we are speaking about … You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. Well it seems like I’m the only one that can’t go to the office anymore.”
“I want everyone in this audience to know that even though the media frames this as me versus that community, it’s not what it is,” Chappelle said. “Do not blame the LBGTQ community for any of this shit. This has nothing to do with them. It’s about corporate interest and what I can say and what I cannot say.”
Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos stoked further unrest with an Oct. 11 staff memo in which he acknowledged Chappelle’s provocative language in “The Closer” but said it did not cross the line into inciting violence.
In interviews before the walkout, Sarandos acknowledged “I screwed up” in how he spoke to Netflix’s staff about the special.
In Monday’s video, Chappelle said that after the controversy he began getting disinvited from film festivals that had accepted a documentary he made last summer, and that he is now making that documentary available in ten American cities.
“Thank god for Ted Sarandos and Netflix,” Chappelle said. “He’s the only one who didn’t cancel me yet.”
(Reporting by Helen Coster in New York; Additional reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Editing by Matthew Lewis)