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Image / Living / Culture

‘It was devastating’: Ellen DeGeneres, toxic work environments and a too-late apology


by Jennifer McShane
13th May 2021
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Ellen DeGeneres has said her decision to end her talk show was not the result of allegations of a toxic workplace environment. The announcement comes after the show lost over one million viewers in just six months. A genuine apology might have been a better start.

There have been rumours circulating for years about the working environment on the Ellen DeGeneres show. And very damning Twitter threads which detailed that one of the “nicest” people on daytime TV who pushes a “Be Kind” mantra was, well, really not that kind. The below tweet has more than 2,600 replies.

Months later and many began to call for Ellen DeGeneres to be held accountable after reports first published by BuzzFeed News laid bare an alleged culture of racism, fear, and intimidation behind the scenes.

They are, rightfully claiming the comedian is ultimately responsible as the face of the show, which she has hosted since its launch in 2003.

If the tweets and investigational report is anything to go by, she is, in fact, responsible for much of the cause of the toxic environment – not least that it is her show.

Accounts from past and present employees shared exclusively with BuzzFeed News detailed various alleged examples of casual racism, bullying, and inappropriate behaviour by senior production staff, all of which DeGeneres denied having any knowledge of (her alleged meanness is unpleasant but was not the root cause of the investigation into the show).

Another anonymous staff member insisted, however, that DeGeneres, was “the root cause” of the alleged claims made.

The apology

In an email to staff, published by The Hollywood Reporter, DeGeneres apologised and said she was “committed to ensuring this does not happen again”.

“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.”

“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.”

“DeGeneres has done much in the past when it comes to breaking barriers and supporting causes that need it most, but her apology feels lukewarm. There’s little acknowledgement that she may have been an issue alongside the allegations – the blame is passed to others.”

It’s also come at a point when everything has peaked; likely the toxicity has been an issue for years and the host is speaking out as she has been left with no choice but to address the allegations now – rather than ensuring they didn’t happen from the outset.

It’s disappointing that a public figure, whom no doubt many would look up to, has shown this lack of awareness.

It also says a lot for a company that relentlessly push their viewers to Be Kind – that this isn’t reflected or given to the staff on the ground (or at times, the guests).

She told US breakfast show Today that the review was not the reason for the show’s end, but it has clearly come too little, too late: “If it was why I was quitting, I would have not come back this year.

“I really did think about not coming back, because it was devastating.  She added she had had “no idea” there were problems behind the scenes until she read press reports, and added: “I don’t know how I could have known when there’s 225 employees here and there are a lot of different buildings, unless I actually stayed here until that last person goes home at night.”

It’s a disappointing way to end a show that meant so much to so many.

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