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Archived: Netflix PR Chief Finally Fired After Using the N-word In Front of Black Employees on Two Occasions

Netflix waited three months after two instances of the racial slur drop and an offended Black ERG before firing Communications Chief Jonathan Friedland.


“We hoped this was an awful anomaly never to be repeated,” Reed Hastings, CEO, wrote in a statement as an explanation for the delay in the termination.

Hastings leads Netflix’s all-white C-Suite.

Friedman’s defense: “I was insensitive in speaking to my team about words that offend in comedy,” he tweeted.

In his first incident, he used the N-word during a meeting with his PR team in a discussion about “sensitive words.” People told him then that they were offended.

He used it again a few days later in front of Black HR employees who were attempting to correct him on the first incident. Then, while speaking to a Black ERG, he completely ignored discussing his previous offenses.

After his apology on Twitter, Friedman later tweeted (and deleted), “Rise high, fall fast. All on a couple of words.”

Hastings seemed to ignore what was happening as well. In his statement he acknowledged he intellectualized and minimized the incidents and didn’t take the opportunity to confirm with employees that the N-word has major implications when used and nothing can “neutralize the emotion and history behind it.”

ERGs don’t help a company’s diversity when white leadership ignores its privilege.

The former talent officer, Patty McCord, wrote in an article that she and Hastings revamped HR to include specific tenets to work by including: Hire, Reward, and Tolerate Only Fully Formed Adults; Tell the Truth About Performance; Managers Own the Job of Creating Great Teams; and Leaders Own the Job of Creating the Company Culture. Maybe that was ignored too.

Netflix has had its share of questionable moves around race, including facing racism and sexism backlash from comedian Monique for paying her millions less than her white and male colleagues for a comedy special, and critiques for whitewashing racism on some of their shows.

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