It has been a rough summer for Ellen DeGeneres. After news broke early in 2020 that three of the producers of the Ellen Show were being accused of sexual misconduct, the problems continued to pile up for the tv talk show host. Accusations soon followed that the workplace environment on the Ellen Show was toxic, and soon after that came allegations that DeGeneres herself was verbally abusive towards subordinates. Even as recently as September, new allegations were trickling in from people who worked for DeGeneres in the past, claiming that she was an abusive and capricious boss. Now, DeGeneres has used the opening monologue on the Ellen Show season 18 premiere to once and for all speak directly to people about some of the accusations.
A Joke-Filled Apology After a Busy Summer
As Season 18 of the Ellen Show returned, Ellen took the opportunity to address fans. In her opening monologue, the 62-year-old cracked a few jokes throughout what she intended to be a heartfelt apology.
The tv talk show host began, “How was everybody’s summer, good? Yeah? Mine was great. Super terrific.” DeGeneres gives a sarcastic grin and two thumbs up.
The comedian continues, “I am so happy to be back in the studio. There are a lot of things I want to talk about.” DeGeneres briefly addressed the fact that she was performing in front of a virtual audience with a joke about imagining them smelling great, before turning to more serious topics.
DeGeneres Addresses the Toxic Work Environment
“As you may have heard, this summer there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show. And then there was an investigation. I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously, and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I am in a position of privilege and power and I realize that with that comes responsibility. I take responsibility for what happens at my show. This is the Ellen DeGeneres show. I am Ellen DeGeneres. My name is there, my name is there, my name is on underwear.”
After the audience shares a chuckle, DeGeneres continues, “We have had a lot of conversations over the last few weeks about the show, the workplace, and what we want for the future. We have made the necessary changes and today we are starting a new chapter. “
DeGeneres Turns to Speculation About Her Character
At this point, DeGeneres directly addresses rumors online, saying, “There were also articles in the press and on social media that said that I am not who I appear to be on TV, because I became known as the, ‘be kind,’ lady. Here’s how that happened. I started saying, ‘be kind to one another,’ after a young man named Tyler Clementi took his own life after being bullied for being gay.”
DeGeneres then offers some wisdom to those who forget that tv personalities are human as well, “…Being known as the, ‘be kind,’ lady is a tricky position to be in. So let me give you some advice. If anyone is thinking of changing your title or giving yourself a nickname, do not go with the, ‘be kind lady.’ Don’t do it. The truth is, I am that person that you see on tv. I am also a lot of other things. Sometimes I get sad, I get mad, I get anxious, I get frustrated, I get impatient. I am working on all of that. I am a work-in-progress. I am especially working on the impatience thing because, and it’s not going well, because it’s not happening fast enough, I’ll tell you that.”
After another pause for laughter, DeGeneres explains why people shouldn’t doubt her sincerity on stage, “I’m a talk show host and you know that, but maybe some of you know that I was an actress. I’ve played a straight woman in movies, so I’m a pretty good actress. But I don’t think that I’m so good that I could come out here every day for 17 years and fool you. This is me. And my intention is to always be the best person I can be. If I have ever let someone down, if I have ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that. If that’s ever the case, I have let myself down and I have hurt myself as well.”
The Ellen Show Should Be a Place For People to Escape in Laughter
“I got into this business to make people laugh and feel good. That’s my favorite thing to do. That and Jenga. And now, I am a boss of 270 people. 270 people who help make this show what it is. 270 people who I am so grateful for. All I want is for every single one of them to be happy and to be proud to work here. This has been a horrible summer for people all around the world.”
The 62-year-old takes a moment to describe what a rough year 2020 has been for everyone, making references to the pandemic and the wildfires in California, adding, “So my hope is that we can still be a place of happiness and joy. I still want to be the one hour a day that people can go to escape and laugh. I want to continue to help all the people that we help every day, and I am committed to making this the best season that we have ever had.”
A timeline of troubles
Things started getting bad for DeGeneres in early 2020. A general timeline of events shows how things have escalated over the course of the year:
- February: beauty blogger Nikkie DeJager said her experience on the Ellen Show was not as pleasant as she expected. In an interview on a dutch tv show, DeJager agreed that the talk show host was, “cold and distant.”
- March: On Twitter, Kevin T. Porter, a comedian and podcast host, shared a tweet saying, “Right now we all need a little kindness. You know, like Ellen Degeneres always talks about! 😊❤️She’s also notoriously one of the meanest people alive. Respond to this with the most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean & I’ll match every one w/ $2 to@LAFoodBank.” The tweet garnered nearly 3,000 responses. Many responses were from people who had minor professional interactions with her on the show or elsewhere, and they painted a picture of a distant and rude person.
- April: According to sources who spoke to Variety, “The core stage crew for ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show,’ consisting of more than 30 employees, received no written communication about the status of their working hours, pay, or inquiries about their mental and physical health from producers for over a month [as the pandemic caused uncertainty about the show’s future].”
- July: As rumors began circulating that the show would be canceled or that DeGeneres would step down to preserve the show’s brand, more allegations emerged about workplace toxicity. CELEB explored these allegations and found, ” Aside from the one former employee, Buzzfeed spoke to 9 other former employees, as well as one current employee. Their allegations included the following:
Being fired after taking a medical leave
Being fired after taking bereavement days to attend a family funeral
Racial comments being made, leading one employee to “walk off the job”
Being told not to speak to DeGeneres if they saw her.”
- July: Also in July, even more shocking allegations came out. According to a Buzzfeed article, Ellen Show producers Kevin Leman, Ed Glavin, and Jonathan Norman were all accused of sexual misconduct. Allegations ranged from inappropriate comments to sexual assault. An investigation was launched by the Ellen Show‘s parent company, Warner Media. DeGeneres reached out to employees via an email with an apology, leaked to the Hollywood Reporter.
- August: Ben Gravolet, a 52-year-old whose mother employed DeGeneres in the 70s, accused the comedian of bullying him as a child. Gravolet claims DeGeneres mocked his weight and his drawing abilities, and he would, “dread,” the days he would have to run into DeGeneres in his mom’s office.
- August: Later in August, an old video resurfaced of DeGeneres mocking show employees. In any other year, it would be passed off as good-natured ribbing. But given the recent accusations of a toxic workplace, DeGeneres’ mocking takes on a far more sinister cast. In the clip from her show, DeGeneres can be heard poking fun at employees from activities or images they performed on their off-time. At the same time the video resurfaced, an old tweet of DeGeneres’ raised eyebrows. In the tweet from 2009, DeGeneres said, “I made one of my employees cry like a baby on today’s show. Honestly, it felt good.”
- September: This month, even more proof emerged that the, “be kind,” comedian is not all she appears to be on television. Dozens of former staffers who worked for DeGeneres spoke out about how they were treated by the tv talk show host. They paint a picture of a person who is demanding, capricious, and callous, and who tormented employees for fun.
As a Part of Improvements, DeGeneres’ DJ tWitch is Now an Executive Producer
During the season 18 opening monologue, DeGeneres announced another change; the show’s popular DJ tWitch has received a promotion. Stephen “tWitch” Boss will now be an co-executive producer. This move is likely to appease show employees who have been disgruntled with the workplace environment, as Boss is well-liked by fans and co-workers alike.
Did DeGeneres Wait Too Long to Address Accusations?
Now that it’s mostly all out in the open, fans will have to decide whether they believe DeGeneres’ sincerity or not. The fact that the comedian waited so long to speak publicly, and the fact that she avoided addressing certain aspects of the allegations, has some crying foul online. Fans in the comments for the apology video are already questioning whether or not she was sincere, saying the jokes were out of place in such a serious discussion. Others point out that this is on-brand for DeGeneres, who is well-known for using dry humor to address serious topics.
Now that the allegations have come to light, it seems unlikely that the misconduct will continue. Usually this level of scrutiny is enough to tank a show, but the Ellen Show has proven incredibly resistant to pressure. However, withstanding pressure to close down doesn’t make the show immune to pressure completely. Now that the public eye is trained intensely on backstage happenings and DeGeneres’ behavior, the 62-year-old tv talk show host will have to put up the changes she promised, or deal with consequences. Fans who have loved the show for years tune in for light-hearted laughter and generosity, but they are unlikely to tune in if the behavior continues after this chance for a mea culpa.
Is the Face of “Be Kind,” Kind After All?
CELEB snapped images of a dictatorial looking DeGeneres after a morning workout in the A-lister enclave of Montecito, California, where she recently paid cash for a $49 million compound. Appearing to be unhappy with the attention, one of the media’s most prominent “Be Kind” champions couldn’t hide her displeasure with the exposure. A recent report in The New York Times says “Ellen” has lost more than 1 million viewers since its season debut in September 2020, and critics are their heads as to how its front woman survived “cancel culture.”