What Is Going on at The Ellen DeGeneres Show?

Hours before the report of sexual misconduct on her show broke, DeGeneres sent a letter to employees apologizing for not maintaining what she said she wanted to be “a place of happiness – [where] no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Would you like to know what it is? Norman also said he was “100 percent categorically denying these allegations.” As for whether DeGeneres herself was aware of any of the behavior described by the employees, some said producers would “insulate” her from the rest of the crew but also that she just “doesn’t want to know.”

What does Ellen say? Clearly some didn’t. Even through the dark murder-hornet cloud of giant, history-making, and stupefyingly dumb news that overwhelms the senses each day, the knowledge that A Thing Is Happening with Ellen has filtered into the collective consciousness. Another person said she complained about numerous offensive comments referencing her race and essentially walked off the job after she herself was reprimanded for being “resentful and angry.”

In a joint statement, producers responded that they were “truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. The TL;DR of it all is that Ellen’s cheery, feel-good façade is crumbling. He also reportedly sometimes used a private shower openly in view of employees and had an “intimidation” button on his desk that could shut his office door. Celebrities are speaking out in her defense. Leman denied “any kind of sexual impropriety.” Another executive producer, Ed Glavin, was accused of being “handsy with women”; five employees said he touched them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. They included accounts of allegedly being fired after taking medical leave for a suicide attempt and for taking bereavement days, and for being told not to speak to DeGeneres around the office. “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. DeGeneres’s wife, Portia De Rossi, received criticism for seeming to blame “bots” for amplifying the criticisms of DeGeneres in a post on Instagram, in which she used the hashtag “stopbotattacks.”

But so are others …

Some celebrities, however, along with others who have been in DeGeneres’s orbit, are speaking up to confirm employees’ negative experiences with the host. Behold, the shitshow at The Ellen DeGeneres Show:

First, employees were reportedly outraged by DeGeneres and producers’ lack of transparency during the pandemic. She giggled. “For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. Of course not. Co-executive Jonathan Norman was accused of “grooming” one employee by taking him to concerts and offering him company perks before attempting to perform oral sex on him. There’s also this Twitter thread with thousands of bad Ellen experiences. Multiple former employees accused producers of sexual harassment and abuse. A spokesperson said the show was committed “to taking care of our staff and crew and have made decisions first and foremost with them in mind,” but employees told Variety that the lack of personal communication on behalf of executives, including DeGeneres, was hurtful. Or when she had that extremely awkward confrontation with Dakota Johnson? A few weeks after its initial report, BuzzFeed followed up with a devastating collection of accounts from more than 30 employees who painted a picture of The Ellen DeGeneres Show as a “place where sexual harassment and misconduct by top executive producers runs rampant.” Accusers named top producer and head writer Kevin Leman, who was accused of grabbing a production assistant’s penis, groping another production assistant, and making sexually explicit comments in the office. Bush? Have you had time to figure it all out? Actor Brad Garrett tweeted that it “comes from the top” and that he knew more than one person “treated horribly” by DeGeneres, to which actress Lea Thompson replied, “True story.” Tony Okungbowa, an actor who DJ’d on-air on the show as “DJ Tony,” posted on Instagram that he “did experience and feel the toxicity of the environment.” Ex-producer Hedda Muskat, who worked on the show in 2003, told the Wrap that DeGeneres had stood by while Glavin, then a new addition to the team, screamed at an employee. Add it to your brain’s teeming pile. She crossed her legs up on the chair and she said, ‘Well, I guess every production needs their dog.’ And from then we knew. “I was waiting for Ellen to say something,” Muskat recalled. Many of the employees speaking out are holding DeGeneres directly accountable for fostering an environment with values antithetical to the one she most often professed as being important to the public: kindness. But now, multiple allegations of misconduct against her show’s producers — including intimidation, racism, harassment, and assault — have caused total chaos behind the scenes. So far, it includes Katy Perry, Diane Keaton, Samantha Ronson, Ashton Kutcher, and Scooter Braun. They discovered that WarnerMedia, which distributes the show, hired a nonunion tech company, employing only four of the 30 core crew members. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.” DeGeneres has not yet addressed the latest set of allegations. 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.” By July 27, WarnerMedia had launched an internal investigation into workplace issues on the show. The list of high-profile celebrities who have taken to social media to say they have only had respectful experiences with DeGeneres continues to grow. “‘Whoa, Ed, don’t talk like that.’ Do you know what she did? They claimed that when normal production of the show, which makes DeGeneres an estimated $50 million a year, shut down in March, they received no written communication about changes to pay, hours, or any inquiries about their health from producers for two weeks. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us,” they said. By Bridget Read@bridgetgillard

Photo: Brooks Kraft/Getty Images

Something is happening regarding The Ellen DeGeneres Show. That much is known. Then, in July, over ten employees described The Ellen DeGeneres Show as a toxic workplace environment of “racism, fear, and intimidation.”

On July 16, BuzzFeed News published a report in which one current and ten former employees of DeGeneres’s talk show described numerous negative experiences, largely with the highest-ranking members of production but also with DeGeneres. When they finally did get an update, they were told they could expect a 60 percent reduction in pay even though the show was continuing to air, taped from DeGeneres’s home. One employee was reprimanded for posting a GoFundMe to cover medical costs not covered by the show because it “might hurt DeGeneres’s image,” according to BuzzFeed. Why not. For decades, DeGeneres built her brand on self-deprecating comedy, cushy celebrity interviews, and touching human-interest stories. Cracks in that smiley exterior have been showing for a bit already — remember when DeGeneres made the internet explode when she and partner Portia de Rossi were seen palling around at a football game with George W. The example of her own career — a gay woman playing the first gay lead on TV — served as an aspirational tale of personal growth and empowerment. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case,” she wrote. In April, Variety reported that many employees on the show’s core stage crew were furious by higher-ups’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic and workplace issues. Ed was going to be the barking dog — her dog.”

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