Netflix fired an employee for sharing “confidential, commercially sensitive information” outside of the company about Dave Chappelle’s controversial stand-up special “The Closer,” the company confirmed to CNN on Saturday.
The unidentified employee was an organizer of an upcoming walkout by the company’s trans employees, according to a report by The Verge. Netflix claims the employee leaked the information to Bloomberg, which published it in an article on October 13.
Laurie Burgess, an attorney representing former Netflix employee B. Pagels-Minor, denied that her client leaked the information to the press.
The Bloomberg report said that Netflix spent $24.1 million on the “The Closer,” while “Squid Game,” the company’s biggest debut hit, cost the streaming giant $21.4 million.
Netflix said a review of its internal access logs showed that only one person viewed sensitive title data, and that person downloaded and shared it externally.
“The Closer” has been criticized by advocacy groups such as GLAAD as being transphobic. The trans employee resource group at Netflix is planning a walkout on October 20 to protest both Chappelle’s special and statements in support of the comedian by Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos, The Verge report said.
“We understand this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company,” a Netflix spokesperson said.
Chappelle faced backlash for his special, released in October, in which he made comments on transgender people and called himself “team TERF,” which stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.”
“Gender is a fact. Every human being in this room, every human being on earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on earth. That is a fact,” Chappelle said in the special.
On Thursday, Sarandos expressed continued support for Chappelle in a staff email obtained by Variety, causing rifts within the company.
“With The Closer, we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real world harm (such as further marginalizing already marginalized groups, hate, violence etc.),” Sarandos wrote. “While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”
Last week, the company suspended Terra Field, a senior software engineer who identifies as queer and trans, who had publicly criticized “The Closer” on Twitter.
Field and two other employees were suspended for attending a virtual meeting of directors and vice presidents last week without notifying the meeting organizer in advance, according to a source with knowledge of the matter. Field said on Twitter Tuesday that she has since been reinstated.
When reached by CNN earlier this week, a spokesperson for Netflix said: “Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so.”
Chappelle also faced controversy in 2019 over a joke he made about Caitlyn Jenner, and again in 2020 for his remarks about trans people in another Netflix special, “Sticks and Stones.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated as a matter of fact that the fired Netflix employee leaked information to the press. Their attorney denies Netflix's claim. This story has been updated to include that denial.
CNN’s Lisa Respers France contributed to this report