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Netflix fires comms chief over racial slurs at work

Jun 24 2018 07:28
Gerry Smith and Lucas Shaw, Bloomberg
Netflix’s top spokesperson is leaving the company after using a racial slur in a work setting.


Jonathan Friedland, chief communications officer, said on Twitter on Friday that he’s stepping down following “insensitive” comments he made to colleagues. He used a derogatory term for black people twice in the past year, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg.

“His descriptive use of the N-word on at least two occasions at work showed unacceptably low racial awareness and sensitivity, and is not in line with our values as a company,” Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings wrote in the memo.

Friedland joins the growing ranks of high-profile officials who have been forced out over their behaviour. Intel  removed Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich this week following revelations that he had a consensual relationship with an employee. At Athenahealth, CEO Jonathan Bush stepped down this month after a series of allegations about misconduct involving women.

Friedland didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday, but he alluded to his transgressions in a series of tweets.

“Leaders have to be beyond reproach in the example we set and unfortunately I fell short of that standard when I was insensitive in speaking to my team about words that offend in comedy,” Friedland said. “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.”

In the memo, Hastings said Friedland used the slur “several months ago in a PR meeting about sensitive words.”  Friedland apologised for that incident, Hastings said.

“The second incident, which I only heard about this week, was a few days after the first incident; this time Jonathan said the N-word again to two of our black employees in HR who were trying to help him deal with the original offense,” Hastings said. “The second incident confirmed a deep lack of understanding, and convinced me to let Jonathan go now.”

'Rise high, fall fast.... Aal on a couple of words....'

A former journalist, Friedland joined Netflix in 2011 and oversaw the company’s external communications as it grew into one of the most powerful entertainment businesses in the world. Netflix was worth less than $10bn when Friedland started, and it’s now valued at more than $170bn.

Hastings praised Friedland’s contributions to the company, but said his behaviour left him no choice. Hastings runs Netflix based on a culture of freedom and responsibility with nine core values, including judgement and communication.

Netflix, based in Los Gatos, California, declined to comment further on Friedland’s departure, pointing to Friedland’s statements on Twitter.

“Rise high, fall fast,” Friedland said in a now-deleted tweet on Friday. “All on a couple of words....”

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netflix  |  entertainment  |  race
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