Be kind to one another — or not? One current and 10 former employees on The Ellen DeGeneres Show claimed in a new report that they faced racism, fear and intimidation while working behind-the-scenes on the Emmy-winning series.
“That ‘be kind’ bulls–t only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show,” one former staffer alleged to BuzzFeed News in a story published on Thursday, July 16. “I know they give money to people and help them out, but it’s for show.”
Executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner responded to the allegations in a joint statement to the website, saying, “Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes and employing over 1,000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe and inclusive work environment. We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us. For the record, the day-to-day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better and we will do better.”
Many of the employees, who asked to remain anonymous, agreed that executive producers and other senior staffers were largely to blame for the workplace environment. However, they also said that they feel Ellen DeGeneres should have intervened as host.
“If she wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what’s going on,” one former staffer told BuzzFeed. “I think the executive producers surround her and tell her, ‘Things are going great, everybody’s happy,’ and she just believes that, but it’s her responsibility to go beyond that.”
In the report, employees alleged that they were fired after taking medical leave or bereavement days for family funerals, while others claimed they were instructed not to speak to DeGeneres, 62, around the office. Another ex-staffer, described as a Black woman who has worked in the TV industry for a decade, said she experienced racist comments, actions and “microaggressions” on set in addition to being underpaid.
“Whenever I brought up an issue to my white male boss, he would bring up some random story about some random Black friend that he had and how they managed to get over stuff,” the woman told the site. “He would use his Black friend as some way to say, ‘I understand your struggle.’ But it was all performative bulls–t.”
This is not the first time that DeGeneres and her show have come under fire. Comedian Kevin T. Porter started a Twitter thread in March asking people to share “insane stories … about Ellen being mean” and has since received more than 2,600 replies. A month later, Variety published a report about employees being left in the dark about their pay and other issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And a month after that, the talk show host’s former bodyguard publicly shared a story about her being “very cold” toward him.
As rumors continued to run rampant, a source told Us Weekly exclusively in May that DeGeneres was “at the end of the rope,” adding, “She thought this was all just sour grapes from a few haters. But it’s not a passing thing — the hits just keep coming.”