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The comedian Dave Chappelle has spoken out about backlash against his recent Netflix special, saying he would be open to meeting transgender employees of the streaming company but would not be “bending to anyone’s demands”.
“To the transgender community, I’m more than willing to give you an audience,” Chappelle said in a video posted to his Instagram page on Monday. “But you will not summon me.”
Chappelle appeared to be responding to a protest outside Netflix’s Los Angeles office last week. A crowd in the hundreds, including a group of Netflix employees, protested against Chappelle’s comments and demanded Netflix take action to support the LGBTQ+ community.
Chappelle and Netflix have faced criticism for comments in the special that was released this month. Chappelle directed jokes toward transgender people, said “gender is a fact” and lamented the controversy that has surrounded the author JK Rowling, who has been accused of transphobia.
Along with a flood of criticism on social media, LGBTQ+ activists and organizations denounced Chappelle’s comments as transphobic, the latest example, they said, of a string of anti-LGBTQ+ remarks.
In a previous comedy special that aired in 2019, Chappelle referred to the LGBTQ+ community as “the alphabet people” and transgender people as “the T’s”.
In a statement, the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Glaad said: “Dave Chappelle’s brand has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalized communities.
“Negative reviews and viewers loudly condemning his latest special is a message to the industry that audiences don’t support platforming anti-LGBTQ+ diatribes.”
Ted Sarandos, the chief executive of Netflix, defended the decision to release the special.
“You can’t please everybody or the content would be pretty dull,” he said in a statement. “I do think that the inclusion of the special on Netflix is consistent with our comedy offering.”
In his video posted to Instagram, Chappelle denied that he was invited to speak to transgender Netflix employees.
“I said what I said and boy, I heard what you said,” he told a sympathetic crowd in the video, reportedly filmed at a performance in Cleveland.
“My God, how could I not? You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix, it seems like I’m the only one who can’t go to the office.”
Chappelle said he would have “some conditions” for people who wanted to meet with him about his comments.
“First of all, you cannot come if you have not watched my special from beginning to end,” he said. “You must come to a palace of my choosing at a time of my choosing.”