For many years, Ellen DeGeneres was looked at as a marvel in the celebrity world.
Her biggest “scandal” was deciding to come out as a lesbian on her TV show Ellen– which, obviously, was not a scandal. Due to the time she did it, though, which was in 1997, being openly gay and lesbian- especially on television- still wasn’t something that was widely accepted.
While the Ellen show ended up going off the air, the Ellen DeGeneres Show (which is Ellen’s hit talk show) has been wildly successful since it began airing in 2003. DeGeneres has always appeared to have a great relationship with all guests (who are typically major celebrities) that appear on her show. DeGeneres has also always been very philanthropic and has typically been what people would deem as one of the kindest celebrities around.
While 2020 has been a bizarre year for many, it has also begun to change the narrative regarding Ellen. Many accusations of not being as nice as DeGeneres seemed began to arise, and those have evolved today into shocking allegations of sexual misconduct from executive producers on the show. All in all, it’s safe to say that 2020 has not been Ellen’s year.
How The Ellen Scandal Began
The allegations surrounding DeGeneres not being as nice as she seemed began back in February. Nikkie de Jager, who is a beauty vlogger known as NikkieTutorials, and appeared on DeGeneres’s show to talk about being a transgender woman. Prior to her appearance, she had recently come out to her fans.
The next month, de Jager appeared on a Dutch talk show and revealed that her experience hadn’t been the pleasant one that everyone would assume would occur when visiting DeGeneres’s show.
Specifically, de Jager said that “Let me say that there’s a big difference between this show and Ellen DeGeneres, and I’m saying that in favor of this show.” In her conversation on the Dutch take show, de Jager also noted that DeGeneres did not say hello to her before the show and agreed that DeGeneres was “cold and distant.”
In another interview regarding her experience with &C Magazine, de Jager stated that “Every guest at Ellen had a private toilet, but I didn’t. I couldn’t even use the closest toilet to me because it was reserved for the Jonas Brothers.”
de Jager went on to add that “Maybe I’m being naive, but I expected them to welcome me with confetti: Welcome to ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’! But instead I got greeted by an angry intern, who was a bit overworked. I expected a Disney show, but I got a ‘Teletubbies’ after dark.”
While this was only one person speaking out about DeGeneres- and, let’s be honest, who hasn’t had one bad thing said about them through the years- more began to unfold in March.
Ellen’s Twitter Terror
On March 20th, just as the coronavirus pandemic was ramping up, Kevin T. Porter (a comedian/writer/podcast producer) tweeted out the following: “Right now we all need a little kindness. You know, like Ellen DeGeneres always talks about!”
While this seemed nice, Porter went on to add “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.”
While no one knew just how much this tweet would explode, Porter’s tweet- to date- has 70,200 likes, 17,900 re-tweets, and 2,700 responses.
While anyone can say anything they want on Twitter- and the stories can’t necessarily all be verified- it definitely started to make people question what exactly was going on. Surely, 2700 people couldn’t all have made up stories and there had to be some semblance of truth in the midst of all these narratives. It’s imperative to note these stories included not only bad experiences of fans (such as DeGeneres complaining about a waitress having chipped nail polish and almost getting her fired from her job), but they also featured experiences people had while filming. One of the most notorious accusations was that an autistic custodian who worked for DeGeneres was fired simply for greeting her.
Pay Issues For Ellen’s Staff
More issues arose for DeGeneres in April when an exclusive article came out in Variety stating that DeGeneres’s crew was “furious” over “poor communication” regarding their pay during the coronavirus shutdown.
Specifically, the story noted that over 30 people who worked on the stage crew for DeGeneres’s show “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.” In addition, the story noted how the stage crew was further enraged by DeGeneres hiring a “non-union tech company” to help her do her show from her home during the lockdown.
After being pressed for a while to respond, Variety went on to reveal that almost all of the crew was told to “brace for a 60% reduction in pay” even though new episodes of the show were still airing.
Interestingly, as Variety mentions, when DeGeneres began her shows from home she said she did this for “my staff and crew” noting “the best thing I can do to support them is to keep the show on the air.”
In a comment that was featured in an Insider article, a representative for Warner Brothers (with is where the studio for DeGeneres’s show is) did claim that the crew was continuing to be paid at their normal rates- but with reduced hours.
Fast forward to this month, and things spiraled out of control again for DeGeneres on Twitter again. When rumors regarding her show being canceled began to circulate, some on twitter put #RIPEllen, as another rumor about her committing suicide in response began to circulate (which was completely false).
Producers also spoke out to The New York Post to confirm that The Ellen DeGeneres Show was NOT getting canned.
A “Toxic Work Culture”
Also this month, a report from Buzzfeed came out detailing that the work culture at the show is “toxic.”
One former employee noted to Buzzfeed that “That ‘be kind’ bullsh*t only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show. I know they give money to people and help them out, but it’s for show.”
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
While the Buzzfeed report does note that the allegations the former employees made seems to point the blame in the direction of executive producers and senior management, they did note that since DeGeneres has her name backing the show she is not immune to taking responsibility for what’s happening there.
Buzzfeed did obtain a statement from Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner (who are executive producers on DeGeneres’s show) that read the following:
“Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe, and inclusive work environment. We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us.
For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”
After this report, Warner Bros did end up beginning an investigation into the ongoings of the work culture at The Ellen DeGeneres show.
In a statement to Buzzfeed they said “It was important to both Warner Bros. and Ellen that as many people as possible attached to the program could be heard. The Ellen DeGeneres Show is, and has always strived to be, a place that brings positivity to the world. And though not all of the allegations were corroborated, we are disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management. We have identified several staffing changes, along with appropriate measures to address the issues that have been raised, and are taking the first steps to implement them.”
While DeGeneres has remained completely silent regarding all of the allegations that have come her way, she finally did speak out to her staff in a note that leaked to The Hollywood Reporter yesterday.
Here is the text of that letter:
“Hey everybody — it’s Ellen. On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.
I could not have the success I’ve had without all of your contributions. My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that. Alongside Warner Bros, we immediately began an internal investigation and we are taking steps, together, to correct the issues. As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done. Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.
I’m also learning that people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop. As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or — worse — disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.
It’s been way too long, but we’re finally having conversations about fairness and justice. We all have to be more mindful about the way our words and actions affect others, and I’m glad the issues at our show were brought to my attention. I promise to do my part in continuing to push myself and everyone around me to learn and grow. It’s important to me and to Warner Bros. that everyone who has something to say can speak up and feels safe doing so.
I am so proud of the work we do and the fun and joy we all help put out in the world. I want everyone at home to love our show and I want everyone who makes it to love working on it. Again, I’m so sorry to anyone who didn’t have that experience. If not for COVID, I’d have done this in person, and I can’t wait to be back on our stage and see you all then.
Stay safe and healthy.
While DeGeneres likely hoped this note would allay a lot of the allegations that have arisen thus far, yesterday a new report emerged that is the most shocking to date.
According to a new Buzzfeed article that came out yesterday (and has been updated today), DOZENS of people who had previously worked on DeGeneres’s show have accused executive producers of sexual misconduct.
These allegations include the following:
- A former male employee claims that Kevin Leman, a head writer and executive producer on DeGeneres’s show, asked the employee if he could “give him a handjob or perform oral sex in a bathroom at a company party in 2013.”
- Another person recounted seeing Leman “grab a production assistant’s penis.”
- Another former employee stated that, back in May of 2017, they spotted Leman “grope a production assistant in a car and kiss his neck.”
- Still, other employees recounted Leman making “sexually explicit comments” that included “pointing out male colleagues’ bulges in their crotches” and asking them inappropriate questions.
Leman did give a statement to Buzzfeed, responding to the allegations that “I started at the Ellen Show as a PA more than 17 years ago and have devoted my career to work my way to the position I now hold. While my job as head writer is to come up with jokes — and, during that process, we can occasionally push the envelope — I’m horrified that some of my attempts at humor may have caused offense,” he said. “I have always aimed to treat everyone on the staff with kindness, inclusivity and respect. In my whole time on the show, to my knowledge, I’ve never had a single HR or inter-personal complaint made about me, and I am devastated beyond belief that this kind of malicious and misleading article could be published.”
Leman was not the only executive producer accused of sexual misconduct, though, as Buzzfeed went on to note that five people who used to work on the show claimed Ed Glavin (who we mentioned previously) had “touched them in a way that made them feel uncomfortable.”
While Glavin did not respond to Buzzfeed with a comment, Buzzfeed did note that they spoke to 47 former employees and all of them concurred that Glavin “led with intimidation and fear.” Some also alleged that they were not comfortable with Glavin using a private shower he had in his office, as he would use the shower right before people would come in for meetings in his office.
One employee told Buzzfeed that “You’d be going into his office for an important meeting and the shower door is open and you’re like, that’s a little weird. The shower is right when you walk in on the right. Before you even see his desk, you see his shower. He’d be openly showering and going into meetings with wet hair.”
Sadly Glavin wasn’t the only other executive producer that was accused of inappropriate behavior.
Jonathan Norman, a co-executive producer on the show, was accused by a former employee of taking him to concerts and offering other “work-related perks” and then, one night “attempted to perform oral sex on him.” Buzzfeed had three of this former employees colleagues confirm his story.
Norman did respond to Buzzfeed saying he “denied these allegations” “100%.”
“I have never had a single complaint against me in my career,” Norman went on to note. “I have never ‘groomed’ anyone. I have never done anything to harm another staff member. Ever. The person I believe you are referring to has ulterior motives for bringing down the show and has been acting with malice towards the show.”
One would wonder, though, with all of these allegations, why weren’t they brought up to Human Resources (HR) or escalated higher?
The former employees Buzzfeed spoke with explained that there wasn’t a “formal process” to complain about someone and that “senior-level producers pressured them not to go to HR.”
As far as DeGeneres, some of the former employees don’t think she’s aware of what’s actually going on.
One specific former employee stated that “Everyone acted really differently around her. There’s a show that’s happening behind the show, the show that the executive producers have us all put on for her when she comes to the offices.”
Other former employees felt differently, though, believing that DeGeneres has to know- at least to some extent- what’s going on.
One specific employee stated that “For someone who’s so involved in the show and the creative aspect, and having been in those meetings with her, it’s very hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that she doesn’t hear the same whispers. Unless she really is just in this bubble.”
Still another former employee told Buzzfeed they believe that DeGeneres jus “doesn’t want to know” about what’s going on, detailing that they believe “she knows sh*t goes on” but “doesn’t want to hear it.”
Is The Ellen Show Over!?
According to a breaking news report from The Daily Mail, DeGeneres reportedly has had enough and is “ready to call it quits” in regards to her show.
A source The Daily Mail spoke to at Telepictures revealed that DeGeneres wants to “walk away from the show.”
Their insider specifically stated that “She feels she can’t go on and the only way to recover her personal brand from this is to shut down the show. The truth is she knew what was going on, it’s her show. The buck stops with her. She can blame every executive under the sun – but Ellen is ultimately the one to blame.”
“Inside Telepictures we’ve had enough of her,” their source continued dishing. “She is a phony who does not practice what she preaches.”
They went on to note that “The behavior of her show executives has been appalling, but [she] is no better. In fact, she is the worst. It’s outrageous that she is trying to pretend that this is all a shock to her. The fish rots from the head, and Ellen is the head.”
The Daily Mail‘s insider went on to reveal that DeGeneres “hates coming to work.” They also stated DeGeneres “struggles to be nice to people and has utter contempt for her audience.”
“She has been phoning it in for so long,” their source added, “and only staying for the money and celebrity it affords her. We’ve dealt with her BS for so many years, she’s not innocent at all, she’s not nice and the show is not filled with happiness.”
They still had more to say, explaining that “At this point, there’s really no way to save the show from this PR nightmare, so Ellen leaving may be the only way for this entire mess to go away.”
“While it is our most profitable show in daytime,” they elaborated, “we no longer make the money we used to make from the show, as we have to pay her tens of millions of dollars per year to show up.”
“We thought our problems were with the cast upheaval at The Real,”The Daily Mail‘s source also noted. “We had no idea that Ellen would implode during quarantine.”
Where Do Things Go From Here?
As we mentioned previously, Warner Brothers has launched an investigation into the initial set of toxic work culture allegations. We would tend to believe that they are going to look into these new allegations as well, as they would be completely irresponsible if they did not.
As far as the future of the Ellen DeGeneres show goes, what will actually end up happening remains to be seen.
We will be sure to keep you posted as more surrounding the “Ellen saga” of 2020 continues to emerge.