D.C. Mayor Defends Dave Chappelle Amid Transphobia Controversy

Mayor Muriel Bowser told reporters Friday she has not considered rescinding Chappelle's key to the city, referring to him as both a "friend" and "genius."

US comedian Dave Chappelle and recipient of the Mark Twain Award for American Humor

Image via Getty/Alex Edelman/AFP

US comedian Dave Chappelle and recipient of the Mark Twain Award for American Humor

The mayor for Washington, D.C., had some kind words for embattled comedian Dave Chappelle.

During a Friday press conference, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) was asked if she would rescind Chappelle’s key to the city in wake of his latest transphobia scandal

“I haven’t considered rescinding the key to the city, and I regard Dave as a friend and as an artist who is a genius,” Bowser said. “Dave has been having this conversation with the trans community for a long time. But you would be, and I don’t think you would understand the whole show, I’m not sure you’ve seen it if you didn’t also understand some of his other commentary about race.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) says she has not considered rescinding Dave Chappelle's key to the city:

“I regard Dave as a friend and as an artist who is a genius.” pic.twitter.com/eAqgigWTJd

— The Recount (@therecount) October 15, 2021

Chappelle received the key to the city during a 2017 ceremony at his alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Browser presented the honor to the D.C. native, and praised him for all his success and continuing to promote “D.C. values.”

“Some very special native Washingtonians have dedicated their lives to making Washington, D.C. better, and they’ve gone above and beyond to show others what makes the nation’s capital the best city in the world,” Bowser said during the event. “Dave Chappelle reminds us what it means to live a life filled with purpose, meaning, and laughter.” 

The 48-year-old comedian is facing mounting backlash over his comments about the trans community during his newly released Netflix special The Closer. During the show, Chappelle declared himself “Team TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) and went on to make offensive comments about trans women’s genitalia. 

In the weeks following The Closer premiere, a number of civil rights organizations have called on Netflix to pull the stand-up special from its service; however, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has continued to stand by the comedian.

“We know that a number of you have been left angry, disappointed and hurt by our decision to put Dave Chappelle’s latest special on Netflix,” Sarandos wrote in a company email obtained by Variety. “With The Closer, we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real world harm (such as further marginalizing already marginalized groups, hate, violence etc.) …”

The email continued: “While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm. The strongest evidence to support this is that violence on screens has grown hugely over the last thirty years, especially with first party shooter games, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly in many countries. Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse – or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy – without it causing them to harm others.”

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