Netflix’s chief communications officer, Jonathan Friedland, was dismissed by the company after using a derogatory term for African-Americans on two separate occasions.
Chief Executive Reed Hastings sent an awkward email to Netflix employees saying he had fired Friedland for showing an “unacceptably low racial awareness and sensitivity” that is out of line with the company’s values.
In the staff memo, Hastings described two instances in which Friedland dropped the “N-word,” once several months ago in a PR meeting about sensitive words. Friedland apologised after several people told him how inappropriate and hurtful his use of the term was, Hastings said.
“We had hoped this was an awful anomaly never to be repeated,” Hastings wrote. “Three months later he spoke to a meeting of our Black Employees @Netfix group and did not bring it up, which was understood by many in the meeting to mean he didn’t care and didn’t accept accountability for his words.”
Friedland sought to get on the front foot before news broke, tweeting, “I’m leaving Netflix after seven years. 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.”
Friedman joined Netflix in February 2011, after serving as senior vice president of communications at The Walt Disney Co. Before that, he spent over 20 years as a foreign correspondent and editor, mainly with The Wall Street Journal, in the U.S., Asia and Latin America and co-founded the Diarios Rumbo chain of Spanish-language newspapers in Texas.