Ellen DeGeneres talks about toxic workplace allegations for the first time

Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres

NEW YORK • Ellen DeGeneres on Monday opened the 18th season of her talk show that has been mired in controversy for months, with a broad apology that addressed allegations of a toxic workplace culture under her watch.

It was the first time the staple of daytime American television publicly addressed the controversy surrounding her, after BuzzFeed News published a report over the summer detailing a culture of fear among her employees, which included accusations of sexual misconduct, racism and intimidation from the show's management.

The scathing reports followed rumours and anecdotal posts on social media that DeGeneres, 62, was difficult to work with - and not nearly as nice as her feel-good show portrayed her to be.

"I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I'm in a position of privilege and power and I realised that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show," DeGeneres said in her opening monologue, released online ahead of its broadcast on Monday.

DeGeneres said her programme was kicking off a "new chapter" after "necessary changes" following an internal investigation from parent company WarnerMedia, though she did not go into detail on any of the restructuring.

Last month, three high-level producers were let go - executive producer Ed Glavin, co-executive producer Jonathan Norman and head writer Kevin Leman.

The long-time comedienne, actress and host also joked that she was in a tough position given her reputation as the "be kind" woman, a nickname she said she earned after she urged kindness following the 2010 suicide of a young man who was bullied for being gay.

"Being known as the 'be kind' lady is a tricky position to be in," DeGeneres said. "So, let me give you some advice out there if anybody's thinking of changing her title or giving herself a nickname. Do not go with the 'be kind' lady. Don't do it."

"The truth is I am that person that you see on TV," she continued, denying allegations that offstage, her personality was a far cry from the sunny persona she has crafted onstage.

 
 
 

DeGeneres made waves in 1997 after becoming one of the first television stars to publicly come out as gay, which she did while starring in the sitcom Ellen.

Last year, prior to the scandal surrounding her eponymous show, she renewed her hosting contract through 2022, also inking a deal to create three shows for streaming platform HBO Max.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2020, with the headline 'Ellen DeGeneres talks about toxic workplace allegations for the first time'. Print Edition | Subscribe