Netflix fires exec over use of N word

By @chelean on
The Netflix logo is shown above their booth at Comic Con International in San Diego, California, U.S., July 21, 2017.
The Netflix logo is shown above their booth at Comic Con International in San Diego, California, U.S., July 21, 2017. Reuters/Mike Blake

A Netflix exec has been fired for his alleged repeated use of a racial slur at work. Jonathan Friedland was the streaming service’s chief communications officers for the past seven years until he was fired this week for his “insensitive” remarks.

Sources told the Hollywood Reporter that CEO Reed Hastings informed employees on Friday via a company-wide email that Friedland had been fired. He explained that they had to let go of Friedland after his “descriptive use of the N-word” at least twice at work. His actions “showed unacceptably low racial awareness and sensitivity, and is not in line with our values as a company.”

According to the email, Friedland first used the highly charged word several months ago in a PR meeting about sensitive words. Several people apparently told him that it was inappropriate and hurtful. He had apologised then. He did not bring the incident up when he spoke to a meeting of their Black Employees @ Netflix group, which was understood by many in the meeting that he did not accept responsibility for actions.

The second incident was a few days after the first one. Friedland said allegedly the N-word to two black employees in HR who were trying to help him deal with the first offence. Hastings said he only became aware of the second incident last week.

“The second incident confirmed a deep lack of understanding and convinced me to let Jonathan go now,” he wrote. “As I reflect on this, at this first incident, I should have done more to use it as a learning moment for everyone at Netflix about how painful and ugly that word is, and that it should not be used. I realise that my privilege has made me intellectualise or otherwise minimise race issues like this. I need to set a better example by learning and listening more so I can be the leader we need.”

Hastings mentioned the Netflix show “Dear White People” in explaining why Caucasians should not use the N word even though others may. “Our show Dear White People covers some of this ground,” he wrote, referring to the satirical dramedy that addresses racism in the US.

Friedland, who joined Netflix in 2011, acknowledged that he “fell short” of the standard that leaders should set example of. “I feel awful about the distress this lapse caused to people at a company I love and where I want everyone to feel included and appreciated. I feel honoured to have built a brilliant and diverse global team to have been part of this collective adventure in building the world’s leading entertainment service,” he said in a statement to THR.

There is no word on who will replace Friedland yet.