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  • A Letter from Professor Tribe to Reed Hastings RE: Tom Segura

A Letter from Professor Tribe to Reed Hastings RE: Tom Segura

Dear Mr. Hastings,

I've not had the privilege of meeting you, but I am among the many admirers of the revolutionary platform you and your team have created at Netflix. I don't know whether you're familiar with my legal work over the past half-century, but I have long been committed to the law not just as an abstract value but as an agent of human decency and mutual respect.
It is in the context that I was shocked and saddened by the painful ridicule of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities featured in the Netflix comedy special, Tom Segura: Disgraceful. This material and the platform it enjoys captures and perpetuates the insidious stigma of people with intellectual disabilities as irredeemably flawed and lacking value.

I have spent many decades working with Presidents, Senators, Representatives, Governors, and citizens dedicated to civil rights and human rights—President Obama, Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Kagan and former UN Ambassador Samantha Power have been among my students and research assistants at Harvard, and I have worked closely with Vice President Biden and the late Senator Edward Kennedy and Ambassador Sargent Shriver and his remarkable wife Eunice Shriver. In this time, I cannot recall encountering anything more hateful or painful than the stigma Segura has weaponized in the name of 'comedy.'

If racial or religious or ethnic minorities were the targets of Tom Segura's outrageous cruelty, I cannot imagine that an industry leader with a reputation as hard-earned as that of Netflix tolerating—much less facilitating and propelling—the spread of such hate on its media platform. This is not a matter of "political correctness;" indeed, I have dedicated my professional life to the study and protection of free expression and the prevention of censorship, and I am not here advocating government action to combat what Netflix is enabling and promoting. But when words and images serve only to perpetuate the stigma that dehumanizes the most vulnerable among us, it is time for citizens of principle to stand up and say: "Enough!"

If Tom Segura is beyond shame, then it is the duty of people like Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, to blow the whistle. But direct appeals by advocates with intellectual disabilities to address this cruel content were dismissed by both Mr. Segura and Mr. Sarandos.

This cannot stand. If Mr. Sarandos cannot find it in himself to stand up for what is decent and right, then, with all respect, it falls on you personally to do something about this clearly unacceptable situation.

I appreciate your reading this message and would be grateful for your timely response. Every day this material remains in a position to inflict unjustified pain—with no redeeming value to offset its injurious impact—is a day we should all feel ashamed of ourselves.

Thank you for hearing me out. Hope you will respond soon.