Netflix fires communications exec over derogatory term

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.

Source: Deadline


  1. I’ve noticed you seem to have a repeated problem understanding “all this”, so here’s a quick explanation. I’ll try to keep it simple for you:

    Using words that many people think are not OK, to refer to those same people = not OK.
    Using words that many people think are OK, to refer to those same people = OK.

    Does that help?

  2. I suppose it depends on what context something is said in public and how you choose to interpret a derogatory word or words. Movies and TV shows commonly use coarse language and racist slurs, usually packaged as comedy, hopefully the thought police, psychoanalysts and human behaviourists wont be turning their attention to censoring entertainment script writing as well.

  3. So he used the word yes, but it was in the context of “a PR meeting about sensitive words”. Meaning it wasn’t with hateful intent?

    And at the same time, having an internal group titled ‘Black Employees @Netflix’ is ok?

    I’ll never understand all this.

    • I don’t get it either. So two things here:

      1) the man used a word that was inappropriate in a meeting abut “sensitive words”. How is he supposed to talk about sensitive words without ever mentioning the words?

      and then

      2) After having apologised (putting aside whether the apology was required or not), he then attended a “black employees @ netflix” meeting in which the audience expected him to use the word, but not wanting to repeat the mistake of the past he didn’t use the word, and so now not only is he expected to be a mind reader, he also got fired because he didn’t use a word for the second time which he should never have used in the first place?

      What the….?

      I hope he files for unfair dismissal.

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