Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks, and More Salute Ellen DeGeneres 20 Years After Historic Coming-Out Episode

Ellen DeGeneres is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the historic “Puppy Episode” of her ‘90s sitcom, Ellen. In the episode, DeGeneres’s character, Ellen Morgan, comes out as gay, just as DeGeneres recently had in her real life. Friends and colleagues of DeGeneres’s put together a video to congratulate and thank her for what she did and the impact it had on society.

Ellen Degeneres and Laura Dern in the coming out episode of 'Ellen' in 1997 (Photo: Everett Collection)
Ellen DeGeneres and Laura Dern in the coming-out “Puppy Episode” in 1997. (Photo: Everett Collection)

Tom Hanks got the ball rolling by remembering DeGeneres’s Time magazine cover where she simply stated, “Yep, I’m gay.”

Diane Sawyer, who did a primetime interview with DeGeneres days before the episode aired, said, “You widened the circle of understanding and connection and kindness. Here’s a salute to you, my friend, and to the history you made.”

Comedian Tig Notaro had proof of the impact the episode had on her: She brought out the TV Guide that DeGeneres appeared on at the time.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who came out as gay in 2012, spoke about the impact DeGeneres’s bravery had on countless people.

“It’s probably impossible to calculate how many people you helped 20 years ago when you came out publicly. It’s probably impossible to calculate how many lives you actually saved,” Cooper said. He later added, “We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, and I am certainly standing on your shoulders.”

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays a gay character, Mitchell Pritchett, on Modern Family and is gay himself, credited DeGeneres with opening the doors that allowed him to get where he is today.

And former first lady Michelle Obama took some time away from her and former President Barrack Obama’s seemingly endless vacation to say some kind words to DeGeneres, calling her brave, kind, and a terrible person to go shopping with.

Watch Ellen and Oprah recall death threats and more following the Ellen coming-out episode:

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