Netflix has fired a Black, pregnant, transgender employee who was organizing an October 20 walkout in protest of comedian Dave Chappelle’s transphobic stand-up comedy special The Closer.
The employee, who asked not to be named for fear of harassment, was fired for allegedly leaking metrics about the special to the media.
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Those metrics included how much Netflix paid for the special ($24.1 million) and how many people watched it (10 million people as of October 13), according to Bloomberg News.
“We have let go of an employee for sharing confidential, commercially sensitive information outside the company,” Netflix said in a statement. “We understand this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company.”
In response to their firing, one of the employee’s former co-workers told The Verge, “All these white people are going around talking to the press and speaking publicly on Twitter and the only person who gets fired is the Black person who was quiet the entire time. That’s absurd, and just further shows that Black trans people are the ones being targeted in this conversation.”
Social media users and Netflix’s employees have criticized the Chapelle and the video streaming platform for the comedian’s numerous transphobic comments in the special.
Netflix employee Terra Field, a transgender woman, responded to the company’s decision to air the special on Twitter in a lengthy thread that also documented the dozens of transgender people violently killed so far this year alone.
“Promoting TERF ideology (which is what we did by giving it a platform yesterday) directly harms trans people, it is not some neutral act,” Field wrote. “This is not an argument with two sides. It is an argument with trans people who want to be alive and people who don’t want us to be.”
Field and two others were suspended after they attended a quarterly meeting of the top 500 corporate executives where Sarandos was defending the company’s decision to go forward with the program.
“It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show. Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so,” a Netflix spokesperson told Variety.
But Sarandos continued to try to spin the controversy, sending a follow-up memo to give managers talking points on how to field questions about the corporate decision.
“It never feels good when people are hurting, especially our colleagues, so I wanted to give you some additional context,” Sarandos wrote. “You should also be aware that some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do.”
Later on, in defense of the stand-up special, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos said that Chappelle was too popular to drop from the platform.
“While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm,” Sarandos wrote in another memo to Netflix employees.
In response to the memo, queer author and attorney Preston Mitchum on Wednesday, “Make no mistake, Chappelle’s alleged jokes do not impact hypothetical people; they, in fact, cause real harm to transgender and nonbinary viewers and Black LGBTQ youth who may have once looked up to him as a role model.”