Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is defending a segment featuring the word “retarded” that airs on the streaming service saying that such language falls within the bounds of “creative expression.”

Hastings’ comments come in response to criticism of a comedy special titled “Tom Segura: Disgraceful,” which debuted earlier this year on Netflix. During the hour-long stand-up performance, Segura laments the loss of the word “retarded.”

“You can’t say retarded anymore. It was just here, don’t you remember? Retarded. People get very upset,” Segura says.

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“But now you can’t say that. Now you gotta be like, ‘That’s not smart. Your idea has an extra 21st chromosome, if you ask me.’ It’s not the same,” the comic continues.

Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe wrote to Hastings over the summer about the special imploring Hastings to “do something.”

“I cannot recall encountering anything more hateful or painful than the stigma Segura has weaponized in the name of ‘comedy,'” Tribe wrote.

In an email response to Tribe this month, however, Hastings justified the comedian’s performance.

“Our view is that, even though many find Tom Segura’s comments hurtful, in this instance they fall within the bounds of creative expression as part of a stand-up comedy performance. Certain portions of any creative work including stand-up comedy can and do offend and are intended to evoke a range of responses,” Hastings wrote in his Sept. 5 email, which Tribe supplied to Disability Scoop.

“As an on-demand service, no one has to watch any particular show on Netflix,” Hastings continued. “We offer a wide range of perspectives and voices on our service, and work hard to provide context and tools to give our members a higher degree of choice and control over what they and their families watch.”

At present, the Segura comedy special — complete with the questionable portion — remains available on Netflix.

In his email, Hastings indicated that Netflix reached out to Special Olympics and other groups “to build a dialog around the concerns they’ve raised and hope to continue that discussion.”

Special Olympics confirmed to Disability Scoop that representatives of the group met with Segura in June.

“Despite our appeal and Mr. Segura’s expressions of support, he and Netflix have refused to remove this offensive piece of his routine,” Special Olympics said in a statement. “While freedom of speech is a right we all cherish, promoting or condoning speech that degrades and dehumanizes people with (intellectual disabilities) is wrong.”

For his part, Tribe said he was unsatisfied by Hastings’ reply.

“I do believe that media entities like Netflix have a higher moral (even if not legal) obligation to consider the psychic and cultural consequences of their choices than the one Reed Hastings accepts in his invocation of ‘creative expression,'” Tribe told Disability Scoop.

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