“Be kind to one another” is the catchphrase Ellen DeGeneres is known for, but recent reports claims the talk show’s environment is rife with racism and bullying.
Writers are claimed to favour white employees, and there’s allegations DeGeneres has forced staff to go home and shower.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show is reportedly under internal investigation by WarnerMedia following multiple accusations of workplace bullying and racism directed at the host and her senior team.
Crew and staff received a memo last week from Telepictures, the show’s producer, as well as distributor, Warner Bros. Television, indicating they had engaged WarnerMedia’s employee relations group and a third party to investigate the matter.
Current and former team members will be interviewed about their experience with DeGeneres and her higher-ups to establish if the claims had any validity to them.
The WarnerMedia investigation follows outrage from employees about poor conditions and lack of communication from executives during the early days of the pandemic.
Fuel was added to the fire in the form of an onslaught of negative comments from ex-Ellen employees, who took to social media to air their grievances at the 62-year-old.
But how exactly did one of television’s most beloved personalities earn the moniker of “one of the meanest people alive”?
‘Be kind’, but only for the cameras
Popular YouTube make-up artist Nikkie de Jager, known as NikkieTutorials, was one of the first figures to call out DeGeneres in February.
“Maybe I’m being naive, but I expected them to welcome me with confetti: ‘Welcome to The Ellen DeGeneres Show‘!” she told Dutch publication &C Magazine, which was translated by Pop Crave.
“But instead I got greeted by an angry intern, who was a bit overworked. I expected a Disney show, but I got a Teletubbies after dark.”
It wasn’t until April that fans finally began to take notice: Comedian Kevin T. Porter asked Twitter for people to share their experiences with DeGeneres.
A) She has a "sensitive nose" so everyone must chew gum from a bowl outside her office before talking to her and if she thinks you smell that day you have to go home and shower.
— Benjamin Siemon (@BenjaminJS) March 20, 2020
The thread was flooded with nearly 3000 responses casting the comedian in a bad light, many from former interns and crew members, as well as those working at neighbouring Warner Bros. lots.
According to Buzzfeed, the toxic culture extended to some writers and senior executives and producers of the show, with one employee coming forward to share two experiences of micro-aggression and racism directed towards her.
I have another food one: she polices her crew's lunch orders, nobody allowed to eat fish etc. They would come hide on our stage to eat what they wanted away from her.
— Alison Freer ✂️ (@AlisonVFreer) March 20, 2020
The former employee said that a writer on the show joked that writers and senior staff only remembered the names of white employees.
Another senior-level producer allegedly told the same employee and a fellow black colleague, “Oh wow, you both have box braids; I hope we don’t get you confused.”
My sister wants me to emphasize that Portia was always very nice
— the nude eel 🌹 (@nude_eel) March 21, 2020
Not so generous after all …
DeGeneres continued to lose favour with audiences during the pandemic for a poorly timed joke about her living conditions.
Fans accused the comedian of being out of touch and insensitive for comparing isolating in her $US27 million mega-mansion to being in jail.
“One thing I’ve learned from being in quarantine is that people – this is like being in jail, is what this is,” DeGeneres said in a segment for her show.
“It’s mostly because I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 10 days, and everyone in here is gay.”
— Peter 🇵🇷 (@TheAdachiFan) April 8, 2020
Furthermore, more than 30 employees who make up the core stage crew on Ellen, which has recently completed its 17th season, had not received any form of written communication outlining the show’s pandemic procedures or the future of their positions, as the show went into hiatus earlier this year.
Two employees told Variety that higher-ups and executives would often dodge calls, and refused to reveal information about the employees’ hours, pay and employment status when probed further.
After a month of radio silence, crew members were finally notified to expect a pay cut of up to 60 per cent.
Adding salt to the wound, DeGeneres has continued to tape remotely during isolation from her home in California, but has outsourced a non-union tech company to assist her.
DeGeneres has yet to address the controversy, but Ellen executive producers Ed Galvin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner released a joint statement and took full responsibility for the show’s poor corporate culture.
“Over the course of nearly two decades, 3000 episodes and employing over 1000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe and inclusive work environment,” they told BuzzFeed.
“We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience.
“It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us.
“For the record, the day-to-day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us.
“We take all of this very seriously and we realise, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”