Ellen DeGeneres apologizes to show staff amid internal investigation

Unconfirmed report claims popular host may be ready to walk away from the show

Ellen DeGeneres has apologized to the staff of her daytime talk show one week after WarnerMedia executives launched an internal investigation into rampant complaints of a toxic work environment, which included allegations of racism and intimidation.

“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,” DeGeneres wrote in a statement Thursday, acknowledging the show had diverged from its stated principles. “For that, I am sorry,” she said.

»PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Internal investigation at ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ after allegations of racism

DeGeneres has reportedly told her bosses that she is ready to walk away from the show, according to The Daily Mail, which cited an anonymous inside source at Telepictures. DeGeneres, however, did not speak to this claim in her statement Thursday.

The popular host has not been directly accused of any hostilities, according to the show’s current and former employees, who earlier this month accused executive producers and senior managers of creating a difficult and unfair workplace, according to a report by BuzzFeed News.

The allegations were troublesome given DeGeneres’ wholesome public persona and because the show was popularly branded with the motto “Be Kind.”

One former employee told BuzzFeed, however, “That ‘be kind’ bulls--- only happens when the cameras are on,” shedding light on a deeper rift taking place behind the scenes. “It’s all for show,” the employee told BuzzFeed. “I know they give money to people and help them out, but it’s for show.”

A separate statement from the front office of the studio Thursday said its internal investigation’s “primary findings” revealed some shortcomings by the show’s daily management team.

“WarnerMedia interviewed dozens of current and former employees about the environment at ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ ... . 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.”

Steps are now being taken to make several staffing changes and implement other steps, the studio said, without citing specifics.

Since the allegations surfaced, voices on social media and elsewhere publicly urged DeGeneres “to take more responsibility” because her name is on the show.

On Thursday, DeGeneres answered the call.

She wrote that she has “deep compassion” for people who are treated unfairly or disregarded. That comes from someone who has been judged for “who I am,” said DeGeneres, who has detailed the price she paid for being openly gay.

“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,” she said in the statement.

“It’s been way too long, but we’re finally having conversations about fairness and justice,” DeGeneres said, adding that she would push herself and others to “learn and grow.”

She said the COVID-19 pandemic kept her from delivering her comments in person to staffers. She signed the message, “Stay safe and healthy” and “Love, Ellen.”

The show’s producer, Telepictures, and its distributor, Warner Bros. Television, responded to the uproar late last week, sending a memo to employees informing them about upcoming interviews that would seek insights on any negative experiences on the job, Variety first reported, citing several inside sources. Top-level human resources officials were also involved.

Previously, Variety reported in April about an uproar among “Ellen” stage crew members who cited the show’s lack of communication with them and its slowness to prioritize worker concerns during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. That was followed by a 60% cut in pay, even as the show continued to air.

Earlier this month, BuzzFeed broke the story after interviewing several current and former employees of the show, some of whom alleged they were fired after taking medical or bereavement leave. One worker said she left because of comments about her race. Each of them asked to remain anonymous.

The allegations included claims of racist and passive-aggressive behavior and inappropriate banter during work hours, including one specific remark about two Black female employees with the same hairstyle.