Ellen DeGeneres addressed "allegations of a toxic work environment" during the opening monologue of her show's 18th season.
"I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected," DeGeneres said, during the premiere.
DeGeneres promised a "new chapter" and a way forward.
The opening monologue of The Ellen DeGeneres Show's 18th season took on a different tone this year than seasons prior. For one, the audience was virtual, with a series of faces on screens cheering along to host Ellen DeGeneres' jokes.
But more notably, DeGeneres' subject matter—while punctuated by humor—was decidedly serious. For the first time, DeGeneres publicly addressed allegations of a "toxic work environment" that swirled throughout the summer of 2020, following a July exposé by BuzzFeed News in which current and former employees claimed they experienced racism, fear and intimidation while working for The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Follow-up articles unearthed allegations of "rampant sexual misconduct" and harassment from producers.
"I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously, and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected," DeGeneres said during the monologue.
Over the summer, WarnerMedia launched an investigation into the daytime talkshow, which led to internal changes. Three top producers were fired, and employees now receive new benefits, including five paid days off, birthdays off, and paid time off for doctor’s appointments.
"We have had a lot of conversations over the last few weeks about the show, our workplace, and what we want for the future. We have made the necessary changes, and now we are starting a new chapter," DeGeneres said.
Before addressing the public in this monologue, DeGeneres spoke to her employees—many of whom, according to the BuzzFeed report, blamed the comedian for overlooking the show's harmful culture. “I’m so so sorry for what this has become,” DeGeneres told her staff during an August 17 meeting, in which the changes were announced, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “I’ve left this to be a well-oiled machine, and I realize it’s not a machine...it’s human beings.”
Similarly, DeGeneres took responsibility for the workplace culture gone awry during her monologue. "I know that I'm in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility. I take responsibility for what happens at my show," she said.
Moving forward, DeGeneres promised to look out for, and stand by, her show's staff. Essentially, she recommitted to her role as a manager. "I am the boss of 270 people. 270 people who help make the show what it is. 270 people who I am so grateful for. All I want is for every single one of them to be happy and to be proud to work here," DeGeneres said.
Stephen "tWitch" Boss, who has been the DJ on The Ellen DeGeneres Show since 2014, spoke about his experience as an employee of the show. "The summer was intense. But during that time, there's been a lot of learning, a lot of discussions. I'm so excited to be back here in the studio so we can do what we do best," Boss said. "And lead by example by putting our best foot forward after a bounce back."
While DeGeneres began the monologue by sarcastically pointing to her "great" summer (reader, it wasn't a great summer), she ended the monologue by acknowledging what a difficult time it's been for many people, her staff included.
"This has been a horrible summer for people all around the world," DeGeneres said, pointing to the many forces of unrest affecting people's lives: The coronavirus pandemic, the wildfires in the Northwest, the "blatant racial injustice all around us."
Despite the public upset, DeGeneres hopes that her show remains an hour of positivity, joy, and kindness. "I am so glad that you're here," she said, appearing to choke up with tears. And with that, The Ellen DeGeneres Show is officially embarking on its "new chapter," amid unprecedented times.
For more stories like this, sign up for our newsletter.
You Might Also Like