Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has offered further defense for the streamer’s curation of stand-up comedy specials from Ricky Gervais and Dave Chappelle, both of which have been criticized for including language that is considered transphobic.
In an interview with Maureen Dowd at The New York Times, Sarandos reaffirmed his stance on airing the specials, saying that the way comedians figure out where the line is is by “crossing the line every once in a while.”
“I think it’s very important to the American culture generally to have free expression, Sarandos told the Times. “We’re programming for a lot of diverse people who have different opinions and different tastes and different styles, and yet we’re not making everything for everybody. We want something for everybody but everything’s not going to be for everybody.”
“Nobody would say that what he does isn’t thoughtful or smart. You just don’t agree with him,” he continued.
Last fall, Netflix faced criticism for programming a new special from Chappelle which featured language that many interpreted as transphobic. Sarandos penned a statement that was circulated through the company stating that the streamer held “a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm,” an approach that he later considered as a “screw up.” The subsequent response led to a walk-out by Netflix employees who identified as members or allies of the LGBTQ+ community.
Earlier this month, Netflix released another memo after Chappelle was attacked onstage during a performance at the Hollywood Bowl, stating that “if you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.” The statement was commended by some conservative media publications, such as The Daily Caller.
“It used to be a very liberal issue, so it’s an interesting time that we live in,” Sarandos said, explaining his thoughts on becoming a conservative hero. “I always said if we censor in the U.S., how are we going to defend our content in the Middle East?”
While his conversation with The New York Times mostly focused on Dave Chappelle, the interview also introduced the topic of Gervais’ new special, which debuted earlier this week and has drawn similar criticism for transphobic language. When asked, Sarandos clarified that his comments regarding Chappelle also applied to Gervais.