In March, comedian Kevin T. Porter began a Twitter thread asking for stories “about Ellen being mean” and received thousands of replies. The following month, Variety posted a story that claimed the staff at the talk show, which debuted in 2003, were not informed about their pay amid the pandemic. Additionally, a former bodyguard referred to her as “cold.”
As the reports continued, a source shared exclusively with Us Weekly that the comedian is “at the end of her rope” with the complaints. “She thought this was all just sour grapes from a few haters. But it’s not a passing thing — the hits just keep coming.”
After the first report, in which former staffers came forward to BuzzFeed News claiming the show was a “toxic environment,” executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner spoke out in a joint statement.
“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,” the statement to BuzzFeed News read. “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.”
Soon after, WarnerMedia launched an investigation looking into the show. Although the actress has stayed mum publicly, she did send a lengthy memo to her staff, apologizing if there was behavior she was not aware of.
“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,” she wrote on July 30 in a note obtained by Us. “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.”
Scroll through the gallery below for a full breakdown of the scandal.
BuzzFeed News posted the first report on July 16, in which 11 employees— one current and 10 former — came forward with claims that they had faced racism and intimidation on set of the talk show. “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 said in the report. “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.”
On July 27, WarnerMedia launched an investigation into the show.
On July 30, the Finding Dory star sent an apology in a lengthy letter to her staff.
“It’s been way too long, but we’re finally having conversations about fairness and justice,” she wrote. “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.”
The same day, producer Andy Lassner shot down claims of the show ending. “Nobody is going off the air,” he wrote at the time.
Hours after her apology, Buzzfeed News published a second story in which 36 former employees alleged the show’s producers Kevin Leman, Ed Glavin and Jonathan Norman of sexual misconduct. Leman and Glavin denied the claims and Glavin is reportedly set to step down, according to Variety.
Celebrities Speak Out
Brad Garrett was the first big star to speak out against DeGeneres, tweeting on July 31, “Sorry but it comes from the top @TheEllenShow. [I] know more than one [person] who were [sic] treated horribly by her. Common knowledge.” Lea Thompson replied to his tweet with “True story. It is.”
Meanwhile, Scooter Braun defended the comic. “People love to take shots at people. They love to see people fall. How quickly so many forget. @TheEllenShow is a kind, thoughtful, courageous human being who stands for what is right and highlights on her show the best of us. She has helped change the views for equality,” he tweeted the same day. “Needed to say this as I know first hand how she helps so many when we are watching and when we are not. She isn’t about what is popular she is about what is right. Sending love to Ellen today.”
DJ Samantha Ronson and athlete Nacho Figueras also defended her via tweets in August. “She has ALWAYS been respectful and kind to me,” Ronson wrote. Figueras posted a lengthy statement, which included, “I stand for you my friend and I challenge all the amazing people that know you and call you a friend to say who you are.”
Following the allegations of a toxic work environment, people who work on the show began “calling and texting each other about the story,” a source told Us at the time. “They’re loving that the truth — which has been an open secret for years in the industry — is finally receiving more interest.”
However, following sexual misconduct claims, another source shared that some people working on the show were “freaking out” and were scared she would quit. “The show feels done. It’s going to be very hard to turn this around,” the insider said.
Is Ellen Leaving?
On August 2, a source exclusively told Us that DeGeneres is “pissed that people have come forward to share these negative stories about her and feels betrayed,” noting that part of her “wants out” from the show. Additionally, a second insider said she “has enough money to never work again.”
A Culture of Fear
Hedda Muskat, one of the first producers to join The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2003, claimed she saw a “culture of fear” in the beginning.
“I had never seen this before. I had never been around a toxic host,” the Emmy winner told The Wrap on August 3, adding that she saw Glavin scream at a crew member and the host “giggled” at the notion.
“She crossed her legs up on the chair and she said, ‘Well, I guess every production needs their dog,’” the writer alleged. “And from then we knew. Ed was going to be the barking dog — her dog. You could just see everybody’s faces go stiff. We’re professionals; we’re adults. We don’t need a dog to get us to do our jobs. … She was the only one giggling.”
Actress Portia de Rossi defended her wife when she spoke out for the first time on August 3. “I stand with Ellen,” she wrote via an Instagram post.
A source told Us that the show’s producers held a call with staffers on August 3 and “addressed” the media reports. “They said a lot of [the claims are] true and a lot of it is not true,” the insider said. “They said we are handling everything [and] things will be very different now. … A show that brings so much happiness and fun, it should be a happy show to work on.”
During the meeting, some employees “voiced some concerns” about moving forward, but the team reassured their crew that “the show will go on” and that DeGeneres is “not giving up.” The source added: “[DeGeneres] brings so much joy to people that it would break a lot of hearts to stop doing this show. It was a pep talk and made some staffers feel better.”
Friends Fire Back
Kevin Hart addressed his fans on August 4 and defended his “friend” DeGeneres whom he called “one of the dopest people on the f—king planet” via Instagram. “I stand by the ones that I know and that I love. Looking forward to the future where we get back to loving one another,” he continued. “This hate s—t has to stop. Hopefully it goes out of style soon.”
Katy Perry also showed the comedian support on August 4 via Twitter, writing, “I know I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience besides my own but I want to acknowledge that I have only ever had positive takeaways from my time with Ellen & on the @theellenshow.” The singer added: “I think we all have witnessed the light & continual fight for equality that she has brought to the world through her platform for decades. Sending you love & a hug, friend @TheEllenShow.”
Filming Is a Go
A source told Us in early August that “Ellen has enough money to never work again” if she decides to walk away from the talk show. A second source revealed on August 4 that production is set to begin this week.