Back in July, audiences around the world heard stunning accusations leveled against some of the producers of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. These allegations including racism, sexual misconduct, and creating an abusive and toxic environment.
The allegedly toxic workplace environment seemed completely different from the kind persona of Ellen that everyone knew and loved. Moreover, these allegations led to an official WarnerMedia investigation of her show and some severe staff changes.
But what’s the story behind what really happened? Here is the truth about Ellen’s workplace investigation.
BuzzFeed breaks the silence
There would be no investigation if these allegations never came to light. And we only know about the allegations thanks to BuzzFeed’s investigative reporting.
The article in question was nothing short of a bombshell. Staffers alleged a shockingly toxic workplace environment. Producers were accused of everything from racist and sexist incidents to threatening non-renewal of contracts if employees took bereavement or medical leave.
One of the allegations of racism involved a producer telling a black employee he might confuse her with another black staffer because they both had the same hairstyle. On top of that, producers were accused of generally cultivating an atmosphere of fear and paranoia.
Ellen claimed ignorance that things were so bad for employees. In an apology letter to staff in on July 30, Ellen wrote, “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. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.”
Nonetheless, Ellen’s name is the one above everyone else. And many staffers and fans were skeptical of her claims that she knew about none of this.
“It’s not okay to claim ignorance,” a staffer told The Hollywood Reporter. “When the faces of your staff change so much from one season to the next, something is not okay.”
Sexual misconduct allegations against three producers
The first BuzzFeed story led quickly to another story published on July 31. And this story details even more of the allegations against Ellen’s producers, particularly regarding sexual misconduct.
This second letter focuses primarily on producers Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman, and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman. Staffers accused Glavin of inappropriately touching staffers and Leman of asking a staffer to perform a sex act at an office party. Norman allegedly groomed a staffer and then tried to perform a sex act on him.
Leman and Norman denied all the accusations made against them, while Glavin did not respond at the time of the allegations.
The investigation deepens
The original bombshell BuzzFeed article interviewed current and former staffers who preferred to remain anonymous. But it made enough waves that WarnerMedia decided an investigation was in order.
According to Variety, WarnerMedia hired a third party to conduct investigations in July, and they planned to “interview current and former staffers about their experiences on set.”
While such an investigation would still preserve their anonymity, it would also allow Warner to hear about these accusations directly and possibly learn more about these allegations.
As a result of the investigation, there were some major shakeups behind the scenes.
Most prominently, producers Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman and Jonathan Norman left the show in August. Whether they did so of their own accord or by the mandate of Ellen is unknown. Nonetheless, these were the three producers most prominently accused of sexual misconduct with their employees.
Senior producers Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner remain on the show, and in August they announced some changes to try to improve the workplace environment.
In response to the allegations that staffers were fired for taking medical or bereavement leave, they updated their time-off policy. According to Variety, “staffers will receive five paid days off to use at their discretion, birthdays off, and paid time for doctors appointments and family matters.”
What Ellen claims she did (and didn’t) know
At the center of all of this is a simple question: just how much did Ellen know about what was going on?
As stated earlier, in late July Ellen wrote and distributed an apology letter among her staff. While the letter claimed Ellen would take responsibility for what happened, it also emphasized that all of the allegations regarding her producers were completely new to her.
In August, Ellen continued to claim ignorance in a Zoom video call with staffers. “I feel like I’ve kind of let the ball drop a bit because I’m focused on the show,” she said. “I go in and I do the show, and I’ve just let everybody to do their jobs – to run different departments. And it just became a well-oiled machine, and I think that is the problem.”
However, some people doubt that Ellen could preside over such a toxic environment for years and be completely unaware of it. Others think it is possible but unacceptable for her to not know what is going on at her show. And Ellen has failed to address the accusations against her that she is cold, unapproachable, and forbids staff to talk to her.
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Ellen may be losing gigs
While the investigation may have led to some producers leaving, it has led to few consequences for Ellen. She still has her show. But it looks like she might be starting to lose some gigs as a result of these allegations.
For example, she was highly rumored to host a Friends reunion for HBO Max back when it was announced in February. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed filming indefinitely, and it looks like host plans may have changed behind the scenes.
In September, Andy Cohen interviewed Friends star Lisa Kudrow on his SiriusXM show, and he asked point-blank about Ellen hosting the reunion. Kudrow replied, “I don’t know.” To her knowledge, the host was still up in the air.
While it’s true that Ellen was not completely confirmed as the host, Kudrow’s comment seems to indicate she is now highly unlikely to host the event.
The ratings plummet amid scandals
The investigation into her show continues. But one thing is for sure: Ellen’s ratings are really suffering after the scandal.
According to USA Today, Ellen’s season premiere ratings were down a stunning 38% compared to last year. While ratings for most talk show hosts have suffered during COVID-19, Ellen’s drop is particularly low, most likely due to this ongoing scandal.
While the rumor mill has claimed for months that Ellen might get a less controversial replacement host, there is no sign of Ellen actually being replaced. The long-term ramifications of the allegations may continue to affect her ratings, though.