Ellen DeGeneres Addresses ‘Toxic Work Environment’ Allegations During Season 18 Premiere
Ellen DeGeneres made her first direct public comments on Monday (September 21) in response to the allegations of a toxic workplace environment that have surrounded The Ellen DeGeneres Show this year.
“Oh boy. Welcome to Season 18 of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. If you’re watching because you love me, thank you. If you’re watching because you don’t love me, welcome," she quipped at the top of the season premiere episode. "How was everybody’s summer? Good? Yeah? Mine was great. Super terrific."
Back in July, BuzzFeed News published an investigative report that detailed alleged misconduct in the workplace of DeGeneres' long-running talk show. Former employees spoke to the publication about their experiences at the show. “That ‘be kind’ bulls--t only happens when the cameras are on,” one ex-staffer detailed. “I know they give money to people and help them out, but it’s for show.”
Three executive producers—Andy Lassner, Mary Connelly and Ed Glavin—were called out specifically by another former staff member for allegedly "making the culture and putting out this feeling of bullying and being mean."
Lassner, Connelly, and Glavin responded through a joint statement, claiming they've "strived to create an open, safe, and inclusive work environment" across the show's 2,700+ episodes. "We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience,” they shared. “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.”
Following additional allegations that surfaced later in the summer, including sexual misconduct claims against top staff members, an internal investigation was conducted by WarnerMedia. DeGeneres issued a personal apology to staff, and three high-level employees were let go from the show, including Glavin. Subsequently, on-air personality Steven "tWitch" Boss was promoted to co-executive producer.
On Monday's season premiere, DeGeneres addressed the allegations head-on. "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," she said in front of a virtual audience. "I know I’m in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show."
"We have had a lot a lot of conversations over the last few weeks about our show, out workplace, and what we want for the future," she added. "We have made the necessary changes, and today, we are starting a new chapter."
DeGeneres went on to explain how her use of the phrase "Be kind to one another" at the end of every episode came to be. "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. I thought the world needed more kindness, and it was a reminder that we all needed that, and I think we need it more than ever right now," she explained. "Being known as the ‘be kind’ lady is a tricky position to be in, so let me give you some advice out there. If anyone is thinking of changing their title or giving yourself a nickname, do not go with the ‘be kind’ lady. Don’t do it."
Sprinkling jokes throughout the monologue, she admitted to not always living up to her promise of kindness. "Sometimes I get sad. I get mad. I get anxious. I get frustrated. I get impatient. And I am working on all of that," she said. "I am a work in progress, and I am especially working on the impatience thing, and it’s not going well because it’s not happening fast enough."
"I’m a talk show host, but maybe some of you know that, you know, I was an actress. I’ve played a straight woman in movies, so I am a pretty good actress. But I don’t think I’m that good that I could come out here everyday for seventeen years and fool you," she joked. "This is me, and my intention is to always be the best person I can be, and if I’ve ever let someone down, if I’ve ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that. If that’s ever the case, I’ve let myself down, and I’ve hurt myself as well because I always try to grow as a person."
She ended the monologue by acknowledging the surreal state of the world and that her goal has always been to "make people laugh and feel good."
"All I want is for every single [employee] to be happy and to be proud to work here. This has been a horrible summer for people all around the world," she concluded, touching on the hardships caused by the pandemic, economic state and ongoing racial injustice. "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’m committed to making this the best season that we have ever had.”