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Trouble in paradise
Ellen DeGeneres, executive producer, writer and host of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is under fire surrounding her popular talk show’s workplace environment. An internal investigation is currently underway by WarnerMedia regarding allegations including issues with racism and intimidation. In late July, Variety confirmed that WarnerMedia’s employee relations group as well as a third party firm will be interviewing current and former employees about their experiences on set.
DeGeneres’ show, which has been on air since 2003, has always been described as uplifting and joyful by its viewers. She has showered her fans with her extravagant giveaways like during the segment “12 Days of Christmas.” She’s also a philanthropist and activist, donating large sums to support valuable causes within the LGBTQ+ community and the Black Lives Matter movement, among others. It’s difficult to imagine someone who gives so generously and whose life motto is “be kind to one another" could just be putting up a facade.
However, many of her staff have recently spoken out regarding her behavior at work, suggesting she is not all that kind. A total of 10 ex-employees and one current employee have anonymously spoken to Buzzfeed News about the shocking misconduct of staff at “The Ellen Show.” One woman said she experienced racist comments and actions while working on the show and that her colleagues distanced themselves from her when she spoke out about them. Many staff members have stated they were asked to go as far as not speaking directly to DeGeneres if they saw her at work.
One former employee said their position was eliminated after they came back to work from a month’s leave to check into a mental health facility after an attempted suicide. Another former employee stated they were fired because for taking three separate leaves – a three-week medical leave after a car accident, working remotely for two days to attend a family member’s funeral and then three days off to travel for another family member’s funeral.
The talk show’s former disc jockey, Tony Okungbuwa, known as DJ Tony for his eight years on the show, released a statement on Instagram seeming to confirm some of these allegations. Okungba stated, “I did experience and feel the toxicity of the environment, and I stand with my former colleagues in their quest to create a healthier and more inclusive workplace as the show moves forward.”
The accusations fly
More accusations that Ellen DeGeneres is not as nice as we think came out in a viral Twitter thread started by comedian Kevin T. Porter, when he called for stories of Ellen’s mean streak in exchange for donating money to the Los Angeles Food Bank. The anecdotes piled in accusing DeGeneres of being cold, distant and even downright mean.
Other celebrities also pitched in their own confirmation of DeGeneres’s less-than-kind reputation.
However, many celebrities have stood in solidarity with DeGeneres, attempting to restore her once wholesome reputation. Kevin Hart, Katy Perry, Diane Keaton, Ashton Kucher and Ellen’s wife, Portia DeRossi, all objected to the allegations, saying they’ve all had only good experiences with DeGeneres and her show.
Predictably, plenty of these celebrities have received backlash for defending DeGeneres. In response to Ashton Kucher’s tweet, which stated that he and his team were treated with “respect and kindness” and that DeGeneres never “pandered to celebrity,” one person tweeted that these statements are “invalidating” what the employees have faced at work.
This is not the first time DeGeneres has disappointed her employees. In April, the show hired an outside tech company in California to help DeGeneres tape the show remotely from her home. Her main crew, consisting of more than 30 people, were told to brace for a 60% cut in salaries, even while the show continued to air with outsourced help. Currently only four employees out of the main crew are working with her on the remote version of the talk show.
DeGeneres has since issued an apology letter to her staff, stating, “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.”
While the internal investigation into the daytime show continues, there is speculation that the show could be canceled due to its fallen esteem.
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