Netflix CEO Reed Hastings defended his company's decision to take down an episode of comedian Hasan Minhaj's show "Patriot Act" within Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, explaining that his company is not in the "truth to power" business.
Hastings was asked directly at the New York Times DealBook Conference why his company bowed to pressure and took down the episode, which contained critical commentary regarding Mohammed Bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, after the Saudi royal family sent the company a letter requesting its removal.
"Well, we're not in the news business. We're not trying to do 'truth to power,'" Hastings responded. "We're trying to entertain. And we can pick fights with governments about newsy topics, or we can say, because the Saudi government lets us have us shows like "Sex Education," that show a very liberal lifestyle, and show very provocative and important topics."
"And so, we can accomplish a lot more by being entertainment, and influencing a global conversation about how people live, than trying to be another news channel," he added.
Hastings' remarks come after Netflix released a statement claiming it had received a "valid legal request" to take down the episode in Saudi Arabia.
“We strongly support artistic freedom worldwide and removed this episode only in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request -- and to comply with local law," a Netflix spokesperson said.
The CEO's remarks were strongly criticized by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDo progressives prefer Trump to compromise? Texas House Republican tests positive for coronavirus in latest breakthrough case In defense of share buybacks MORE (I-Vt.), a 2020 presidential candidate.
"An authoritarian dictator who murders journalists, tortures women activists and starves thousands of children should not control what Americans can and cannot say," he tweeted.
An authoritarian dictator who murders journalists, tortures women activists and starves thousands of children should not control what Americans can and cannot say. https://t.co/AkeVgeK9bn— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 7, 2019
In the episode which remains available in most countries, Minhaj sharply criticizes Mohammed Bin Salman and suggests that the young leader is an enemy of progress in the country.
"I am genuinely rooting for change in Saudi Arabia," Minhaj said. "I am rooting for the people of Saudi Arabia. There are people in Saudi Arabia fighting for true reform, but [the crown prince] is not one of them. And to those who continue to work with him, just know that with every deal you close, you are simply helping entrench an absolute monarch under the guise of progress."