Jon Stewart Defends 'Never Hurtful' Dave Chappelle Over Netflix Controversy

Comedian Dave Chappelle has gotten some pushback over the content in his latest Netflix stand-up special, The Closer, due to the transphobic remarks made in the set. "Gender is a fact," Chappelle states in the special. "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." Additionally, he sided with J.K. Rowling's TERF ideology and said that he was "team TERF." TERF stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist and is an ideology that excludes trans women as women. These weren't the only statements that he came under fire for, as he also shared jokes about the #MeToo movement and the LGBT community as a whole. 

Due to these inflammatory statements, trans Netflix employees and their allies staged a walkout to protest transphobia on Wednesday, Oct. 20, and left many people wondering about Chappelle's intent and the Impact that such remarks have on the fight against transphobic violence. Chappelle still has plenty of defenders, including former The Daily Show host Jon Stewart. Stewart recently returned to television with Apple TV+'s The Problem with Jon Stewart, and TMZ asked the comedian about his longtime friendship with Chappelle and what he thought of the controversy.

While Stewart didn't necessarily agree with Chappelle's remarks, he encouraged those who took issue with his special to pay attention to "what's in his heart" as well as what is coming out of his mouth. Regarding the Netflix employee walkout, Stewart believes that both sides can come to terms if they really try to communicate. "I know his intention is never hurtful," Stewart said. "He's not that kinda person."

Despite numerous complaints from various LGBTQ organizations, Chappelle remains unscathed in the controversyVariety reports that CEO Ted Sarandos released a memo in response to the protests, reasserting his stance that specials with views like Chappelle's add to the overall diversity of the streamer's catalog. "We are working hard to ensure marginalized communities aren't defined by a single story," he wrote in his memo. "So we have Sex EducationOrange is the New BlackControl Z, Hannah Gadsby and Dave Chappelle all on Netflix. Key to this is increasing diversity on the content team itself." 

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However, in an interview with Variety, Sarandos did slightly amend that statement despite still backing Chappelle. "Obviously, I screwed up that internal communication," Sarandos admitted. "I did that, and I screwed it up in two ways. First and foremost, I should have led with a lot more humanity. Meaning, I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made. And I think that needs to be acknowledged up front before you get into the nuts and bolts of anything. I didn't do that. That was uncharacteristic for me, and it was moving fast and we were trying to answer some really specific questions that were floating. We landed with some things that were much more blanket and matter-of-fact that are not at all accurate."