Netflix’s CEO stood by the company’s decision to pull an episode of its show Patriot Act after it offended the royal family in Saudi Arabia.
Reed Hastings, who heads the streaming service, claimed that it is not the company’s job to speak “truth to power” after folding to Saudi critics and pulling an episode of the show, a comedy featuring Hasan Minhaj.
The episode featured Minhaj’s commentary on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, in which Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was likely involved.
Hastings defended the decision to pull the episode, claiming the company only aims to entertain.
“Well, we’re not in the news business. We’re not trying to do ‘truth to power,’” Hastings said, adding, “We’re trying to entertain.”
He claimed the company can “accomplish a lot more” by being entertaining than by fighting back against foreign leaders.
“And we can pick fights with governments about newsy topics, or we can say, because the Saudi government lets us have shows like Sex Education, that show a very liberal lifestyle, and show very provocative and important topics,” he said.
Hastings added, “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.”
Prior to Hastings’ comments, the streaming service had defended the decision by noting that the episode was only banned 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,” the company said in a statement.
Minhaj has spoken out against the company’s decision, saying, “There are people in Saudi Arabia fighting for true reform, but [the crown prince] is not one of them.”
He added, “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.”
Netflix has a long-term content deal with former President Barack Obama, but has argued, “There’s no political slate to the programming.”