Ellen DeGeneres resumed her talk show on Monday, April 6, after pausing production due to the coronavirus pandemic, but her return was marred by controversy.
The comedian, 62, came under fire on Twitter after she jokingly compared the time she has spent quarantined at home to being incarcerated.
“One thing that I’ve learned from being in quarantine is that … this is like being in jail, is what it is,” DeGeneres said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show from the living room of her $27 million mansion in Montecito, California. “It’s mostly because I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 10 days and everyone in here is gay.”
After doubling over with laughter and clapping her hands together, she added, “The jokes that I have!”
The Emmy winner’s comment received an onslaught of backlash on social media, where viewers pointed out that inmates at overcrowded and often unsanitary prisons in the U.S. are particularly susceptible to the COVID-19 spread.
“What a great look for Ellen as thousands of people sit in actual jail cells just hoping for the best without soap and basic protections,” one Twitter user wrote. Another tweeted, “Ellen you quarantining in your mansion in designer sweats is nothing like prison.”
One critic pointed out that DeGeneres and her wife, Portia de Rossi, have a penchant for buying houses, fixing them up and selling them to make a profit. Architectural Digest published a timeline in 2019 that included at least 17 properties the couple have owned since 2003.
“Doesn’t…..she buy / redecorate / sell like….. multiple mansions a year?” the aforementioned Twitter user wrote. “People are dying, I’m afraid to leave my house every day but I have to, but ok go off Ellen. Social isolation is bad, stressful, and causes increased depression and anxiety but it ain’t jail.”
Despite the backlash, some viewers were undeterred by DeGeneres’ joke. One thanked her for “holding our nation together and helping people however you can,” while another tweeted, “Your show today made me smile and giggle and forget for the time being about my severe financial issues cause of this horrid situation.”
Nearly 1.5 million cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported worldwide since December 2019, with more than 83,000 deaths. The U.S. currently has the highest number of cases at 400,000-plus.
The New York Times reported in late March that hundreds of COVID-19 diagnoses had been confirmed at local, state and federal correctional facilities, although the number is likely much higher due to the lack of testing.
Us Weekly has reached out to DeGeneres’ rep for comment.
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