In a statement, a rep for Chappelle said, “Dave stands by his Art. Both sides of the street are talking and Dave is listening. At some point, when everyone is open, I’m sure our communities will come together. As Dave said in his special, ‘No more jokes about transgenders until we can all laugh together.’”
The statement arrived after trans employees and allies at Netflix staged a walkout in protest of the jokes in The Closer. The trans employee group at Netflix that organized the walkout also demanded Netflix do more to hire trans and nonbinary people for leadership positions, boost representation among Netflix talent and commit to “harm reduction.”
The walkout garnered from entertainment industry figures like Elliot Page, Lilly Wachowski and Transparent creator Joey Soloway, who spoke during a rally held during the walkout. The event, however, also drew detractors, who appeared with signs that read “Free speech is a right” and “Truth is transphobic.”
A representative for one of the walkout’s organizers, Ashlee Marie Preston, did not immediately return a request for comment regarding the statement about Chappelle.
Chappelle — who has also come under fire for jokes about trans and queer people in previous Netflix specials — has largely stayed quiet as the controversy over The Closer has unfolded since it premiered earlier this month. Following the special’s release, employees at Netflix began using an open Q&A document to raise questions about how the company planed to navigate the line between commentary and transphobia. Three employees were also briefly suspended after trying to attend an executive board meeting, including one trans employee, who’d criticized the special on Twitter 9the suspension was not related to those comments and the three were reinstated).
Additionally, one leader of the trans employee resource group that had helped organize the walkout was fired for allegedly leaking internal information to the press. The employee has claimed they only shared the document internally, but Netflix pushed back, saying they admitted to sharing it externally “from their Netflix email on several occasions,” and “they were the only employee to access detailed, sensitive data on four titles that later appeared in the press.”
Netflix, meanwhile, has both stood by its decision to release The Closer and acknowledging the walkout and “the deep hurt that’s been caused.” Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos in particular has been caught off balance trying to toe this line. In a memo sent to staff, he doubled-down on defending the special, and claimed “content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.” After the memo leaked and drew broad criticism, he apologized, saying an interview, “Of course storytelling has real impact in the real world,” he acknowledged. “I reiterate that because it’s why I work here, it’s why we do what we do. That impact can be hugely positive, and it can be quite negative. So, I would have been better in that communication.”