Netflix CEO Defends Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais’s Transphobia (Again)

Ted Sarandos doubled down on the decision to air controversial specials in a new interview

Co-CEO and Chief Content Officer at Netflix Ted Sarandos attends the "Ozark" Season 4 premiere on April 21, 2022 in New York City.
Co-CEO and Chief Content Officer at Netflix Ted Sarandos attends the "Ozark" Season 4 premiere on April 21, 2022
Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Netflix has been having a rough go of it lately, thanks to a dismal first quarter that saw the streaming service lose over 200,000 subscribers. The company found itself in hot water again last week after it debuted Ricky Gervais’s new standup special SuperNature, in which the comedian makes some pretty heinous transphobic jokes. But in a recent interview with the New York Times, CEO Ted Sarandos defended the streamer’s decision to put out specials by comics like Gervais and Dave Chappelle that include controversial jokes about trans people.

“I believe it’s very important to the American culture generally to have free expression,” Sarandos told the publication. “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.”

Sarandos also defended the decision to continue working with Chappelle after his controversial special The Closer, insisting the choice was a no-brainer for him.

“It was an opportunity to take somebody, like in Dave’s case, who is, by all measure, the comedian of our generation, the most popular comedian on Netflix for sure,” he said. “Nobody would say that what he does isn’t thoughtful or smart. You just don’t agree with him.”

Of course, that’s not entirely true; many of us have said, repeatedly, that there’s nothing thoughtful or smart about transphobic material. It’s just a lazy attempt at a cheap laugh. But Sarandos might not be the best person to judge what’s smart; doubling down on transphobia when your company is already hemorrhaging money and subscribers doesn’t exactly seem like an intelligent business decision.

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