On Friday afternoon, Netflix C.E.O. Reed Hastings announced in an internal memo to Netflix staff that he had decided to fire the companys longtime public relations chief, Jonathan Friedland, after Friedland used the n-word in the presence of staff on two separate occasions. In the memo, obtained first by The Hollywood Reporter, Hastings said that “Jonathan contributed greatly in many areas, but 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.”
Hastings explained that Friedland had first used the word in a meeting about sensitive words a few months ago, and that he had apologized to staffers who had approached him after the meeting. Just a few days after that, Friedland had used the word again while speaking to a group of black employees who were trying to speak to him about the first incident. Hastings said in his memo that he only recently learned about the second usage, and decided to terminate Friedlands employment.
“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,” Hastings wrote. “I realize that my privilege has made me intellectualize or otherwise minimize race issues like this. I need to set a better example by learning and listening more so I can be the leader we need.”
“Many of us have worked closely with Jonathan for a long time, and have mixed emotions,” the memo concluded. “Unfortunately, his lack of judgment in this area was too big for him to remain. We care deeply about our employees feeling safe and supported at Netflix.”
Friedland joined Netflix in 2011 as communications vice president, and rose to chief communications officer after a year. He apologized for his behavior on Twitter Friday afternoon. “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,” he tweeted. “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 honored to have built a brilliant and diverse global team and to have been part of our collective adventure.”
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