With the culture at her eponymous talk show under fire, Ellen DeGeneres is speaking out.
In a letter to her crew, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, DeGeneres addresses the alleged workplace misconduct, which was detailed in a Buzzfeed story published earlier this month. The widely-circulated piece includes a host of former employees’ anonymous accusations of racism, intimidation, unjust termination and an overall toxic work culture, perpetuated by the show’s top producers. The report prompted an in-house investigation by Telepictures parent WarnerMedia, which is said to now be largely complete.
In her note, DeGeneres takes responsibility, insofar as the show bears her name, and insists that steps will be taken to “correct the issues” going forward. “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,” she writes. “That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.”
While neither she nor Warner Brothers will comment on the fate of specific employees, two sources tell THR that executive producer Ed Glavin – one of the show’s three EPs, and the one at the center of many of the nastier claims – is among those who will be let go. “Once he’s out, it will be like a new day,” says a source close to the show, one of two who claim DeGeneres was largely kept shielded from Glavin’s day-to-day handling or mishandling of the staff. Others are expected to be out as well.
In a statement to Buzzfeed about its reporting, Glavin, along with EPs Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner, had said: “Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1000 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.”
At the top of her letter, DeGeneres, who a source says was discouraged from addressing the allegations while the investigation was being conducted, acknowledges the irony of such charges coming at a show she herself had dubbed “a place of happiness.” In light of some of the recent accusations, she also took the opportunity to remind those reading of her own past struggles with feeling othered, having been run out of the industry and the subject of multiple death threats after she came out as gay in the late 1990s. “As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am,” she writes, “I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or – worse – disregarded.”
The talk show, a commercial smash in its 17th season, was renewed in 2019 for three more years, taking it through 2022. That news came after DeGeneres had revealed in an interview with The New York Times, pegged to her Netflix special, that she’d flirted with the idea of calling it quits on the show “all the time.” It’s hard to imagine some of those feelings haven’t resurfaced in recent weeks and months, with a source close to her revealing she’s been “crushed” by all that’s happened of late, including a round of press from April that suggested, inaccurately, that she was wasn’t paying her crew during the lockdown.
In a statement to THR, a Warner Bros. spokesperson said: “Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres take the recent allegations around the show’s workplace culture very seriously. We hoped to determine the validity and extent of publicly reported allegations and to understand the full breadth of the show’s day-to-day culture. As a result, WarnerMedia interviewed dozens of current and former employees about the environment at The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It was important to both Warner Bros. and Ellen that as many people as possible attached to the program could be heard. The Ellen DeGeneres Show is, and has always strived to be, a place that brings positivity to the world. And 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.”
Below is DeGeneres’ full letter to her staff:
Hey everybody – it’s Ellen. 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. 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. Alongside Warner Bros, we immediately began an internal investigation and we are taking steps, together, to correct the issues. 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. 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.
It’s been way too long, but we’re finally having conversations about fairness and justice. We all have to be more mindful about the way our words and actions affect others, and I’m glad the issues at our show were brought to my attention. I promise to do my part in continuing to push myself and everyone around me to learn and grow. It’s important to me and to Warner Bros. that everyone who has something to say can speak up and feels safe doing so.
I am so proud of the work we do and the fun and joy we all help put out in the world. I want everyone at home to love our show and I want everyone who makes it to love working on it. Again, I’m so sorry to anyone who didn’t have that experience. If not for COVID, I’d have done this in person, and I can’t wait to be back on our stage and see you all then.
Stay safe and healthy.