Protesters Gather at Netflix Office Amid Controversy Over Dave Chappelle Special

A group of protesters gathered outside one of Netflix Inc.’s NFLX -2.17% Los Angeles offices Wednesday to express anger over the streaming giant’s Dave Chappelle comedy special, as some employees released demands for management and staged a walkout.

In the special, “The Closer,” Mr. Chappelle made jokes and remarks regarding gender that many in the transgender community, including some Netflix staffers, found offensive. The company has defended the special, citing reasons including the company’s commitment to artistic freedom.

Carrying signs that read “Transphobia Isn’t Funny” and “Trans Lives Matter,” protesters demanded that Netflix offer more inclusive programming and be more sensitive to the effect its content can have on certain communities and society as a whole.

Some Netflix employees attended the event, but didn’t speak. Supporters of the comedian also showed up and tried to disrupt the proceedings.

The event was organized by Ashlee Preston, a trans activist. “If your satire is punching down you are being a bully,” Ashlee Preston said. “I’m tired of companies like Netflix making money off of trauma to my community.”

The extent of the walkout wasn’t clear. Many employees are working remotely.

Substack CEO Chris Best, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish and CAA Co-Chair Richard Lovett reflect on the challenges of supporting free expression while risking backlash at WSJ Tech Live. Photos: Johnny Wolf Studio & Trevor Traynor for The Wall Street Journal

In a list of demands sent to Netflix management, a group of transgender employees called on the company to create a new fund to develop trans and nonbinary talent, recruit more trans people into leadership roles, and add a disclaimer “before transphobic titles that specifically flag transphobic language, misogyny, homophobia, hate speech, etc. as required.”

The employees wrote that those changes and others were necessary “to avoid future instances of platforming transphobia and hate speech, and to account for the harm we have caused and will continue to cause until the below measures are put in place.”

Netflix said in a statement: “We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused. We respect the decision of any employee who chooses to walk out, and recognize we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content.”

A Netflix spokeswoman declined to comment on the specific demands.

In an interview Tuesday, Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos said he “screwed up” in his communications with staff over the controversy. He had cited the popularity of Mr. Chappelle’s special and had said the company didn’t believe programming can spur real-world harm.

“I should have recognized the fact that a group of our employees was really hurting,” he said in the interview.

Also in attendance was B. Pagels-Minor, who doesn’t identify as male or female and uses they as a pronoun.

B. Pagels-Minor said they were fired by Netflix last week for disclosing sensitive information outside the company that ended up appearing in a Bloomberg Media story. In an interview, B. Pagels-Minor acknowledged sharing documents internally but denied providing the information to any media outlets.

“I categorically deny leaking information,” B. Pagels-Minor said. “Netflix was my family, I have no desire to hurt them.”

Netflix said in the statement, “While we would never normally talk about an investigation like this, these claims are not supported by the facts. This employee admitted sharing confidential information externally from their Netflix email on several occasions.

“Also, they were the only employee to access detailed, sensitive data on four titles that later appeared in the press. They claim only to have shared this information in an internal document, and that another employee must have leaked it. However, that document was missing data for one title and so cannot have been the source for the leak. In addition to having no explanation for this discrepancy, the employee then wiped their devices, making any further investigation impossible.”

Write to Joe Flint at

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