Netflix Executive Fired For Saying N-Word In Meeting About Insensitive Words

Oh the irony.  Netflix’s head PR honcho, Jonathan Friedland has been fired for using the “n-word”, twice, in internal meetings. According to Friedland’s tweet announcing he would be parting ways with the company after seven years, the word was used in the context of a discussion about words that offend in comedy.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings released a lengthy email giving more details. Hastings said he decided to fire Friedland because he used the word on “at least two occasions at work” which he says showed “unacceptably low racial awareness and sensitivity.”

The first incident, he described as occurring in a PR meeting about sensitive words. Hastings says Friedland was told afterword that his use of the word was inappropriate and hurtful, and that he had apologized. A few days later, Hastings said, Friedland used the word again to two black employees in HR who were dealing with the offense.  “The second incident,” he said, “confirmed a deep lack of understanding, and convinced me to let Jonathan go now.”  The Netflix CEO says he did not learn of that second incident until a few days ago.  He also referenced a wish that Friedland would have brought up the incident during a meeting of a “Black Employees @ Netflix” group three months later, and felt the failure to do so meant he didn’t care or accept accountability for the incident. He continued, sharing information about why the use of the word is unacceptable in any situation.  Going forward, he says the company will be seeking to be better at inclusion, and will be engaging outside experts to help the company learn faster, and references Netflix show “Dear White People” as exploring many of the racial problems in our culture. He  also expressed regret that he didn’t act faster.

No further detail was given about the intent or the specific use of the word, and the statement makes it clear that the use of the word in any context is unacceptable.

You can read the full statement at The Hollywood Reporter.

The news comes during a year where consequences for insensitivity or inappropriate behavior leads to firing,  and the decision to let someone go seems to be getting faster incrementally.  Whereas in the past year, companies have decided to let people go after media and public outcry elevated the situation and the financial stakes for corporations, this is the first case that has become public after where the firing took place.


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