Netflix has fired their Chief of Communications Jonathan Friedland after he used the N-word twice in front of company employees, an internal memo to employees has revealed.
In a memo to staff, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings detailed two incidents where Friedland had used the word inappropriately, although not as a direct insult.
“I’ve made a decision to let go of Jonathan Friedland,” Hastings wrote. “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.”
“The first incident was several months ago in a PR meeting about sensitive words,” he continued. “Several people afterwards told him how inappropriate and hurtful his use of the N-word was, and Jonathan apologized to those that had been in the meeting. We hoped this was an awful anomaly never to be repeated.”
“The second incident, which I only heard about this week, was a few days after the first incident; this time Jonathan said the N-word again to two of our Black employees in HR who were trying to help him deal with the original offense,” he added. “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. “
Hastings also referred employees to the streaming giant’s show Dear White People to develop a greater understanding of how offensive the word is.
“For non-Black people, the word should not be spoken as there is almost no context in which it is appropriate or constructive (even when singing a song or reading a script),” Hastings explained. There is not a way to neutralize the emotion and history behind the word in any context.”
“The use of the phrase “N-word” was created as a euphemism, and the norm, with the intention of providing an acceptable replacement and moving people away from using the specific word,” he continued. “When a person violates this norm, it creates resentment, intense frustration, and great offense for many. Our show Dear White People covers some of this ground.”
The controversy is merely the latest in a string of contentious decisions by the streaming giant, whose value has recently rocketed as growing numbers of people turn to online streaming rather than traditional television.
The company has seen plummeting approval ratings among Republicans in recent months over their embrace of Susan Rice and Barack Obama, with Rice appointed to the company’s board of directors and Obama being awarded a “multi-year agreement” to help produce films and series for the platform.