After using a racial slur during meetings at Netflix, one of the top communications executives has been let go. Public Relations Chief Jonathan Friedland used the dreaded N-word on at least two occasions and exhibited “unacceptably low racial awareness and sensitivity,” according to company CEO Reed Hastings. Friedland expressed his remorse in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
“I’m leaving Netflix after seven years,” said Friedland in his statement.
“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. I feel awful about the distress this lapse caused to people at a company I love and where I want everyone to feel included and appreciated.”
Hastings issued an exhaustive internal statement explaining the circumstances surrounding his decision to terminate Friedland’s employment. He took responsibility for a lack of action after Friedland used the slur on the first instance. In a PR meeting about sensitive words, the communications head used the N-word. He was approached by attendees at the meeting’s conclusion who told him that they found his verbiage offensive. Friedland offered an apology, according to the CEO.
While Hastings was made aware of the gross misstep, he admits that he should have done more to address the issue. The CEO pointed to his own White “privilege” as the cause of his insensitivity but hoped that Friedland’s behavior was a one-time occurrence. It wasn’t.
The second instance took place just days after the first. Hastings claimed to only find out about it within this last week. Friedland apparently used the term again while talking to two Black employees in the human resources department who were advising him on the previous incident. This report was the final straw for Hastings who made the decision to terminate the seven-year employee’s tenure with Netflix.
Friedland took to Twitter to make the announcement of his separation from Netflix after being a part of a “brilliant and diverse global team.” However, one tweet which was quickly deleted cast much doubt on the executive’s sincerity. The Hollywood Reporter captured a screenshot of Friedland’s post which read, “Thanks. Rise high, fall fast. All on a couple of words….”
The CEO acknowledged Friedland’s contributions as well as the conflicting views that employees have about his firing. However, Hastings insists that the safety and feelings of inclusion by all Netflix employees far outweigh any of Friedland’s accomplishments.
“Jonathan has been a great contributor and he built a diverse global team creating awareness for Netflix, strengthening our reputation around the world, and helping make us into the successful company we are today,” Hastings said.
“Many of us have worked closely with Jonathan for a long time, and have mixed emotions. 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.”