Netflix has fired its chief communications officer Jonathan Friedland after learning that he used a racial slur at least twice in the workplace, the company said Friday.
CEO Reed Hastings said in a memo obtained by The Los Angeles Times that Friedland had used the n-word during a public relations meeting about offensive language, described by Hastings in a way that was "inappropriate and insensitive."
A second incident occurring days later – with two black employees who were helping Friedland deal with the original offense – led to his firing, according to the Times.
“Several people afterwards told how inappropriate and hurtful his use of the N-word was, and Jonathan apologized to those that had been in the meeting,” Hastings said in the memo obtained by the Times. “We hoped this was an awful anomaly never to be repeated.”
“[The next] time Jonathan said the N-word again to two of our Black employees in HR who were trying to help him deal with the original offense,” he continued. “The second incident confirmed a deep lack of understanding and convinced me to let Jonathan go.”
Friedland released his own statement acknowledging his firing on Twitter, saying he had used "insensitive" language.
“I’m leaving Netflix after seven years. 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,” he wrote.
"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. I feel honored to have built a brilliant and diverse global team and to have been part of our collective adventure," he added.
Friedland previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and as a communications officer for The Walt Disney Co. In Hastings's statement, the Netflix CEO apologized for not being more proactive in acting to fire Friedland after the first incident.
“As I reflect on this, at this first incident, I should have done more to use it as a learning moment for everyone at Netflix about how painful and ugly that word is, and that it should not be used,” Hastings said. “I realize that my privilege has made me intellectualize or otherwise minimize race issues like this. I need to set a better example by learning and listening more so I can be the leader we need.”