As Ellen DeGeneres plans to return to her show, sources say the embattled daytime host is serious about making changes to the allegedly toxic set that’s sunken her name into the mud.
DeGeneres was “crushed” when the allegations emerged, a source tells People, and is “personally going to be invested in making sure those things are properly changed.”
“She wants to just put out a great show that makes people happy and feel good,” the insider added. “She’s very focused on that.”
Another source told the magazine, “There is definitely a tension at Ellen that doesn't exist at the other shows... The employees all seem on eggshells.”
Rumblings about DeGeneres began on social media in April, as she replaced her show’s crew with non-union workers to continue production amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. By July multiple employees spoke with BuzzFeed about the show’s allegedly toxic behind-the-scenes environment—where they said they experienced racism, fear, and and intimidation. Days later, employees accused the show’s producers of sexual misconduct and harassment. As executives promise that changes are coming, employees remain skeptical, BuzzFeed reports.
DeGeneres apologized to her staff last week with a letter.
“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,” DeGeneres wrote. “Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.”
“I could not have the success I’ve had without all of your contributions. My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that,” DeGeneres continued, adding, “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.”
“I’m also learning that people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop,” DeGeneres continued. “As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or—worse—disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.”
Still, allegations continue to surface. In an Instagram post Tuesday, former Ellen DJ Tony Okungbowa spoke out about his own experience on the show.
“I have been getting calls asking me about the Ellen Degeneres Show and I would like to address the time I spent there,” Okungbowa wrote. ‘I was on air talent from 2003-2006 and from 2007 -2013. While I am grateful for the opportunity it afforded me, 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.”
A bevy of A-list celebrities, meanwhile, have come forward to insist that DeGeneres has only ever been nice to them—although it’s hard to understand why they believe that has any bearing on how she would have allowed her staff to be treated.
DeGeneres’ brother, former Daily Show correspondent Vance DeGeneres, also spoke out on Tuesday in a Facebook post.
“My sister is being viciously attacked,” DeGeneres wrote. “And let me assure you - it is all bullshit. I put up a simple statement yesterday that said ‘I stand by Ellen.’ Only a handful of my Facebook ‘friends’ responded to it. If you don’t support Ellen, then you don't support me, so please unfriend me.”
“I'm sick and tired of my sister being attacked,” DeGeneres continued. “She always has - and always will - stand against bullying of any kind. She’s a smart, strong woman who has made a positive difference in the world. And to my friends who did respond with support for Ellen and my family, thank you so much. It means a lot.”
Warner Bros. has launched an investigation, and some staffing changes have already been confirmed.
In a statement on behalf of the studio and DeGeneres, Warner Bros. wrote, “Though not all of the allegations were corroborated, we are disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management. We have identified several staffing changes, along with appropriate measures to address the issues that have been raised, and are taking the first steps to implement them. Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres are all committed to ensuring a workplace based on respect and inclusion. We are confident this course of action will lead us to the right way forward for the show.”