The great quarantined-cultural-reckoning has come for none other than Ellen DeGeneres. Having built her image around her end of show catchphrase “Be kind to one another,” the multi-talented and successful daytime talk show host has come under blistering heat for fostering a harsh and fearful work environment offscreen.
The long running show is now under investigation by parent company Warner Bros.
The controversy surrounding the TV mogul’s alleged bad behavior seems to have come to a head after a tweet by comedian Kevin T Porter, posted March 22nd calling Ellen “one of the meanest people alive” and asking followers to “respond to this with the most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean & I’ll match every one w/ $2 to @LAFoodBank.”
What started as a tongue in cheek way to raise money to address hunger in Los Angeles attracted thousands of comments about Ellen and her show. Porter has claimed “Commonly in LA, people who work in the industry or TV either know or know second-hand a not-very-nice story about Ellen.”
T.V. Writer Benjamin Siemon commented “A) She has a “sensitive nose” so everyone must chew gum from a bowl outside her office before talking to her and if she thinks you smell that day you have to go home and shower.”
Everybody Loves Raymond’s Brad Garrett, who voice acted alongside Ellen on Finding Nemo, and appeared on her show six times between 2004 and 2007 tagged the @theellenshow to claim the accusations were “common knowledge” and that he “(knows) more than one who were treated horribly by her.”
Back to the Future actress Thompson seconded Garrett’s message that DeGeneres’ mistreatment of others was “common knowledge.”
On Friday, Thompson replied to People Magazine’s report about his comment and wrote: “True story. It is.”
Most concerning are rising allegations that staffers were often intimidated and dealt with sexual harassment and racism in the work place. One staffer shared they lost their job after a month of leave following a suicide attempt, saying “They definitely don’t practice what they preach with the ‘be kind’ mantra.”
A former Black employee has claimed that a main writer on the show told her “I only know the names of the white people who work here”. While many of these allegations do not center Ellen herself, others do.
In an interview with The Wrap former “Ellen” producer Hedda Muskat opened up about the “culture of fear” she witnessed during her tenure on the show, which began in 2003. “I had never been around a toxic host.”
According to Muskat, Ellen seemed to enable abusive behavior perpetuated by executive producer Ed Glavin, recalling one incident in which he allegedly screamed at a crew member during a staff meeting.
“He just went off on them,” she said. “His whole face turned red. … We were stunned. Instead of challenging Galvin, Muskat claimed DeGenerous “giggled” instead.
“[DeGeneres] crossed her legs up on the chair, and she said, ‘Well, I guess every production needs their dog,’ ” the ex-staffer said. “And from then we knew. Ed was going to be the barking dog — her dog.
Last Thursday, the beleaguered talk show host addressed allegations of a “toxic” workplace culture in a staff memo, saying she plans to “correct” issues raised about improper behind-the-scenes behavior.
“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,” the 62-year-old wrote. “That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.”
While she did not list specific actions that will be taken, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the show’s executive producer, Ed Glavin, will be let go.
It may be hard for fans to process the allegations circling around Ellen. A woman whose activism around the LGBTQ community earned her a Presidential medal of freedom under the Obama administration, and Degenerous is not without friends. Other celebrities like Katy Perry and Diane Keaton have come out in vocal support of Ellen and her work.
Rumors have circulated that the show might be cancelled, that the TV mogul may be replaced by James Cordon, but looking at the value attached to the show, this seems unlikely. Forbes estimates the show profits $35 million yearly for Warner Bros, and more than $50 million to DeGeneres.
Last year, HBO Max, teamed up with Emmy Award Winner Ellen DeGeneres, ordering three original shows straight to series: Ellen’s Home Design Challenge, First Dates Hotel, and Little Ellen, as well as docu-series Finding Einstein in development.
Laura Day is a Reel New York correspondent. Contact her at Laura@reelchicago.com