Ellen: hit talkshow in crisis amid revelations of toxic workplace culture

Host DeGeneres pledges changes amid allegations of sexual misconduct and racism behind the scenes

Ellen DeGeneres at a taping of her show in Burbank, California.
Ellen DeGeneres at a taping of her show in Burbank, California. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP
Ellen DeGeneres at a taping of her show in Burbank, California. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP
Published on Sat 1 Aug 2020 13.01 EDT

It is one of the most popular talkshows on American daytime television, with powerhouse ratings based on a reputation for saccharine niceness.

But now Ellen, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, one of America’s biggest celebrities, has been plunged into crisis after revelations of a toxic workplace culture and sexual harassment that is turning the show into another #MeToo scandal.

In a memo to staff last week, DeGeneres said she intends to “correct” issues raised about behind-the-scenes sexual harassment and racist behavior at her daytime show, saying she had “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,” DeGeneres wrote. “That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.”

While DeGeneres did not specify the reforms that would be taken, The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s executive producer Ed Glavin will be let go, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

On Thursday, BuzzFeed News reported that it had spoken with 36 former employees, many of whom corroborated incidents of sexual misconduct, harassment and assault. The outlet reported that allegations included sexual misconduct between executives and lower-level employees, including requests for sex.

Last month, Telepictures, the producer of Ellen, and its distributor, Warner Bros, sent a memo seeking interviews with former and current employees about their day-to-day experiences on the show.

In a statement, Warner Bros said it had been “disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management”.

The studio added that it has “identified several staffing changes, along with appropriate measures to address the issues that have been raised, and [is] taking the first steps to implement them”.

But sources at Telepictures have said DeGeneres, 62, is considering stepping down from the show, which has run for 17 years.

“She feels she can’t go on and the only way to recover her personal brand from this is to shut down the show,” an insider told the Daily Mail on Friday.

“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.”

One staffer was reported as saying: “She’s only addressing this now because the publicity is so bad for her and her BS brand of happiness and kindness … whenever she’d tell viewers to choose kindness, I’d throw up a little in my mouth because she always chose the opposite.”

Among the allegations was one made by a Black woman who said she’d experienced micro-aggressions and had been accused of “walking around looking resentful and angry” after requesting that staff undertake diversity and inclusion training.

Brad Garrett, an actor on Everybody Loves Raymond, tweeted: “Sorry but it comes from the top ⁦@TheEllenShow. Know more than one who were treated horribly by her.⁩ Common knowledge.”

The Australian radio host Neil Breen described rules he claims to have been given for interviewing DeGeneres in 2013. “No one is to talk to Ellen. So you don’t talk to her, you don’t approach her, you don’t look at her, she’ll come in, she’ll sit down, she’ll talk to [the co-host] Richard and then Ellen will leave ...”

In her statement to staff, DeGeneres said: “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.

“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.”