8:15:00 AM

BRIANNA KEILAR: A new response from comedian Dave Chappelle following this controversy surrounding his latest Netflix special saying that it isn’t about beef with the LGBTQ community, but it’s about corporate interests. Let’s listen. 

DAVE CHAPPELLE: You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. Well, it seems like I am the only one that can’t go to the office anymore. Do not blame the LGBTQ community for any of this [ bleep ]. This has nothing to do with them. It’s about corporate interests and what I can say and what I cannot say. To the transgender community, I’m more than willing to give you an audience. But you will not summon me. I am not bending to anybody’s demands. 

KEILAR: Alright, let’s talk about this with CNN senior political analyst John Avlon as well as journalist and the host of the podcast Run Tell This, Mara Schiavocampo. Okay, Mara, what is your reaction to Dave Chappelle’s reaction? 

MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO: Yeah, it is really unclear what reality Dave Chappelle is living in right now. Because he’s making this about free speech, he’s making this about efforts to reject cancel culture but he has won every skirmish related to The Closer. Netflix has stood behind him 100%, it refused to pull the special or add a disclaimer. The special has been in the top ten since it’s been released. He was greeted at the Hollywood Bowl with a standing ovation. He just released ten new documentaries screening dates with ticket sales and he enjoys tremendous support from his fans, especially in the black community. So I’m not sure what he’s fighting for at this point, when he is winning everything. 

JOHN AVLON: Well, I think what he’s fighting for is against the pressure that’s being applied to him and Netflix to shut down The Closer. You know, people protest outside Netflix, from within Netflix. So he’s reacting to that pressure, not the results, which you’re right, he has been winning every fight to date. And, and free speech, especially for a comedian, social commentator, seems to be something that we should not dismiss because historically that’s usually the losing argument. 

SCHIAVOCAMPO: But you see this effort to fight something that is not happening. 

AVLON: But hold on, it is happening.

SCHAVOCAMPO: And that’s what is confusing. 

AVLON: It is happening.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: He has not suffered any consequences. 

AVLON: That’s a different – the fight is different from a consequence. He’s winning, he’s winning the battles, you’re absolutely right. But he’s pushing against a real tide, which is why we’re talking about it this morning. 

SCHIAVOCAMPO: I would argue that the tide has been working in his favor tremendously and that by doing this, he’s actually raising some questions about what he’s fighting for. People have been supporting him. When you speak to his fans, especially in the black community, and this is a fight I’ve been having for weeks now because of my response to the special, people support him. 

KEILAR: Which is that you don’t like it. 

SCHIAVOCAMPO: I did not like the special. I thought that it was mean. 

AVLON: Right, and, look, I think the issue is that people — a lot of people do support Dave Chappelle, a lot of people are offended by this, but there is no right to not be offended. Having the discussion is evidence of the fact that there is a controversy. And my only issue is not whether Chappelle’s right or wrong, but his absolute right to say what he wants. And, and especially comedians and social commentators, when we have these, these fights, in our culture, I think we would do well to remember liberal values, right, which is, I don’t actually agree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it. And we move away these illiberal impulses we are seeing to shut somebody down or to condemn them, whether or not that is the actual consequence. The pitch of the fight itself is evidence that the fight is real. 

SCHIAVOCAMPO: But it’s a little bit confusing and here is — I’ll tell you why, he ended his special by saying this is the final word on this. This is the last thing I’m going to say about it and this is the last time I’m ever going to talk, talk about it, drop the mic. So now why, a few weeks later after he’s had arguably tremendous success with this special, is he bringing it up again in this way?

AVLON: Well, I think the controversy has been pushed upon him. I think that’s a very fair point. He said this is the last time I’m going to talk about it. It has not been the last he’s talked about it. But that’s because this issue has been elevated and there have been a lot of calls to condemn him and for Netflix to pull it — I think Netflix not pulling their support is, is, is the right thing to do. We can disagree and we should have great debates about things. It’s the censorious impulse to say he should be shut down for this point of view that I think is troubling, not only to Chappelle fans, but to folks who just say, look, we need to find a way to call a truce in these culture wars and do it by refocusing on liberal values. And I think if you look at what he’s actually talking about in that special, he’s actually talking about universal individualism, and, you know, the right of people to be seen as individuals and not primarily as members of a group. And I know that gets – that wades into a really, a thicket of controversy right now. But I think that’s actually an underlying idea, liberal values, that gets lost when we retreat to these group identities and start pointing fingers at each other. 

JOHN BERMAN: Do people have a right to be upset by the special? 

SCHIAVOCAMPO: I can certainly understand why the LGBT community – LGBTQ community is upset. Now, it’s not my place to speak on their behalf, but I do listen. So when you have Netflix employees staging a walkout because they’re so upset about this, when you have leaders of advocacy groups saying that this special is actually dangerous, in the midst of the deadliest year on record for transgender men and women, I have to listen and take that seriously. And I think anybody who is part of a marginalized group, and I’m part of two, wants to be a strong ally to those who are seeking allies because we all need allies. So, it’s understandable why people are upset. However, and I think this is a really important point to make, it is also understandable why he has so much support within the black community, because he has been a tireless advocate for social justice for decades. In fact, he walked away from the Chappelle show because in part he said he didn’t like the way it was portraying black people. He walked away from $50 million for that. He is a fighter for the culture and I understand why he’s a black hero for that. 

BERMAN: I got to say, no one’s been cancelled. And someone’s making a lot of money off of specials that are being sold right now. I think those are two facts that emerge from this at the end.

October 27, 2021 3:56 pm

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