'Be kind' motto means little to former employees at The Ellen DeGeneres Show

‘Be kind’ motto means little to former employees at The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Ellen DeGeneres

In recent months, allegations of a toxic workplace culture, harassment, racism, and intimidation have circled around long-running daytime talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

The allegations from current and former staff members, revealed in a Buzzfeed investigation, have thrown host Ellen DeGeneres and her senior production team in hot water.

One former employee claimed, “That ‘be kind’ bullshit only happens when the cameras are on”.

Indeed, for someone who has built their multi-million-dollar brand and hit television show on the motto “be kind”, the allegations of the entrenched toxic culture at The Ellen DeGeneres Show bring a different light to chirpy nature of the host herself.

While many of the allegations have been directed towards senior production staff at the show, one former employee said, “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.”

“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.”

According to the report from Buzzfeed, former employees said they were fired after taking medical leave or bereavement days to attend funerals. A black woman who used to work at the show said she experienced frequent racist comments and “microagressions”. She said a senior-level employee had said to her and another woman of colour, “Oh wow, you both have box braids; I hope we don’t get you confused.” 

There have also been allegations of alleged sexual misconduct by senior executive producer Kevin Leman, with several ex-staffers saying he acted inappropriately at staff parties and regularly made sexually explicit comments in the office, normally towards younger, lower level employees.

47 former employees who spoke to BuzzFeed News reported that Ed Galvin, another executive producer, led staff with intimidation and fear on a daily basis.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show has since overhauled its senior production team, with executive producers Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman and co-executive producer Jonathon Norman being removed.

DeGeneres has released an official statement of apology to the staff at the show and has spoken to staff via a video conference.

In the statement, Ellen wrote: “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.”

Since the investigation from Buzzfeed revealed the experiences of employees, numerous celebrities who have appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and consider themselves personal friends of host, have come forward with messages of support for DeGeneres. None of them have ever been employed by the show.

Her wife, actress Portia de Rossi, Kevin Hart, Katy Perry, Jay Leno, Diane Keaton, Alec Baldwin and Ashton Kutcher are among the big names who have publicly supported her, all of them saying they have only ever had good experiences on the show and with Ellen.

But as actress Rachel Bloom pointed out, being a celebrity guest and only having good, positive experiences to report is a profoundly different experience to being a junior employee working in production.

For junior and low-level employees, there is an inherent power dynamic at play at a workplace like The Ellen DeGeneres Show. DeGeneres is one of the wealthiest and most influential people in the industry. For similarly powerful celebrities to defend her character does little except undermine the experiences of workers.

The show is reportedly under investigation by WarnerMedia, with staff receiving a memo that an employee relations group and a third party group have been engaged to investigate the allegations.

In Australia, The Ellen show has been pulled from its slot on the Nine Network, to be replaced by re-runs of Desperate Housewives.

“We are resting Ellen repeats on Nine and have replaced with Desperate Housewives,” a from the network statement read.

Repeat episodes will continue to air on 9Gem, one of the Nine Network’s other channels.

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