Ellen to address ‘it’ as the show prepares to return, a full rundown of the controversies
Ellen DeGeneres – known for her ‘Be Kind’ mantra – has faced controversy over the past few months after rumours exploded into major headlines and led to some serious allegations and press for the show. Here’s a break down of the controversy timeline.
April 16, 2020: Treatment of Union Workers During Shutdowns
A report in Variety revealed the frustration over treatment of crew members during the pandemic shutdowns. According to their investigation, the “core” stage crew – of over 30 people – ere angry over a lack of communication over hours, pay, benefits and overall health. When staff did eventually hear from the higher-ups it was to communicate a 60 per cent pay cut.
Staff were further infuriated when the show decided to set up Ellen’s “from home” version using almost none of the existing crew. Instead, they hired a new, nonunion crew for the setup. Variety reported that the show hired a company based in Burbank to work on the technical production aspects, rather than bringing in the existing show crew with the same skills and jobs.
July 16, 2020: BuzzFeed reports on the “Toxic Work Environment”
Seen as a bombshell report, Buzzfeed published a report alleging an ongoing toxic culture behind the scenes at the show. “That ‘be kind’ bulls*** only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show,” one former employee was quoted as saying. Staffers recounted incidents like being fired for taking medical or bereavement leave, as well as fearing to report abuses out of concerns over retaliation from higher-ups. One employee was reprimanded for posting a GoFundMe to cover medical costs, reportedly because the show’s high-ups worried that having an employee seeking financial help would hurt the show’s brand.
Some of the alleged toxic behaviour was racist. Buzzfeed’s report includes a testimonial from a Black woman who recounted numerous racist bullying and microaggressions. Though she reported the incidents, there were never any improvements and she was reprimanded for being difficult – leading her to quit the job. “We’ve been feeling this way, but I’ve been too afraid to say anything because everyone knows what happens when you say something as a Black person. You’re blacklisted,” she told BuzzFeed.
Other employees detailed more of the toxic work environment, describing cliques in the office and a division between staffers who put up with everything and those who recognise the dysfunction. The problems went all the way to the top, many said – corroborating rumours about Ellen herself – but managers were particularly difficult, blocking attempts to make positive change.
July 27, 2020: The Ellen Show’s Workplace Investigation
Following the Buzzfeed report, WarnerMedia announced an investigation into the show, according to Variety. The company declined to comment on the record, but Variety reported that WBTV was bringing in WarnerMedia’s employee relations department, as well as a third-party group, to work with employees and interview them on their experiences.
July 30, 2020: Ellen issues an apology to staff
Days after the internal investigation was announced, Ellen herself issued a memo to staffers, which was obtained by several media outlets, including People.
“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,” the message began.
Ellen confirmed the internal investigation and promised an outcome that would “correct the issues.” She claimed that people were speaking on her behalf, without her authorisation.
“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.” She ended the memo with a promise to “be more mindful” and to make sure people feel safe speaking up.
July 30, 2020: BuzzFeed Publishes another report – alleging harassment at the Ellen show
On the same day Ellen published her memo to staff, Buzzfeed published another report. This report alleged sexual harassment on the part of the show’s executive producers. Producers Kevin Leman, Jonathan Norman, and Ed Glavin were named in the report, with several alleging inappropriate touching, propositions, or asking sexually explicit questions of staff members – often junior and less powerful staffers who could be intimidated into silence.
“You could definitely see the creep factor and the creepy touching. That was out in the open for everybody to see . . . Obviously, no one wants that and no one wants to be uncomfortably touched by someone . . . but you didn’t want to [anger them] or you would be fired, so it was just that culture of fear,” one former employee said.
Several staffers said the three producers behaved differently in front of Ellen, but others weren’t convinced. “She knows,” a former employee said. “She knows s**t goes on, but also she doesn’t want to hear it.”
August 2020: Celebs defend Ellen and Producer step down from the show
In early August, the controversy heated up when several celebrities – including Katy Perry, Kevin Hart, Ashton Kutcher and more – came to Ellen’s defence, sharing positive stories about their experiences with the host. However, the backlash was swift, with many people pointing out how a celebrity is treated is likely to be different from regular folk.
August also saw the departure of three producers named in Buzzfeed’s article, as well as another apology from Ellen. On August 17 sources told People that Ellen had filmed a video apology to her staff.
“I’m a multilayered person, and I try to be the best person I can be, and I try to learn from my mistakes,” she reportedly said, adding her hopes for moving forward when production resumes.
September 2020: The Ellen DeGeneres Show back in production
According to Deadline, Ellen has said that she will be addressing the controversy when the show resumes this fall. Season 18 is set to premiere on Monday, September 21 and filming will be back in its usual studio on the Warner Bros lot. But with no live audience.
“I can’t wait to get back to work and back to our studio. And, yes, we’re gonna talk about it,” Ellen said in the announcement of the season premiere.
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