Ellen DeGeneres, the host of America's longest-running daytime talk show on the air, is in trouble. The Ellen DeGeneres Show is in the middle of an investigation into the alleged "toxic" workplace environment her top producers oversaw behind the scenes. Anecdotes of her own "mean" and aloof behavior have also surfaced. But this is not the first time DeGeneres has faced controversies in her career, which began as a stand-up comic in the 1980s.
There have been rumors that the workplace environment at Ellen is "toxic" in the past, but it was not until BuzzFeed News published anecdotes from several former employees who accused the executive producers of fostering a place where DeGeneres' "be kind" brand was not followed. The former employees, who asked to remain anonymous, said they were fired for taking medical leave or bereavement leave. Another claimed they left the show after getting frustrated with a producer's comments on her race.
After that report was published on July 16, WarnerMedia, the parent company of Ellen producer Telepictures, launched an investigation, which is still ongoing. DeGeneres also issued an apology to her staff, saying changes would be made. However, on the same day, that apology was released, BuzzFeed News published another article — this time focusing on former staffers' allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct from producers. It remains to be seen what the final result will be from this controversy, but here are others DeGeneres has faced over the years.
The fallout from coming out in the 1990s
In 1994, DeGeneres' sitcom Ellen debuted on ABC. In 1997, DeGeneres came out as a lesbian during an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. DeGeneres' character on Ellen, Ellen Morgan, also came out in the famous "The Puppy Episode," which aired in April 1997. Advertisers boycotted the episode, but it was an incredible rating hit and was the highest-rated episode of the series. The episode even won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing.
However, the show lasted just one more season before being canceled in 1998. Each episode reportedly needed a parental advisory warning for same-sex kisses. ABC's president later said Ellen "became a program about a lead character who was gay every single week." Today, "The Puppy Episode" is considered a landmark episode in television history, but it led to a short lull in DeGeneres' career after it was canceled. Her follow-up, The Ellen Show, only ran 13 episodes on CBS before it was canceled in 2002. DeGeneres quickly rebounded though, as in 2003, The Ellen DeGeneres Show launched and she voiced Dory in Finding Nemo.prevnext
Allegedly treating 'Ellen Show' writers poorly
Back in 2007, during the writers' strike, DeGeneres was criticized for taping an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, although she showed solidarity for her writers by not doing a monologue. This issue inspired a former Ellen Show writer to accuse DeGeneres of treating writers "like s—." The unnamed writer added, "Ellen frequently eviscerated the head writer and ... boasted of the changes she'd make in season two, starting with his firing," the writer says, claiming to be a former writer for her 2001-02 sitcom. I'm disappointed in Ellen [for crossing the picket line] but not surprised ... given what I've seen from her with my own two eyes."prevnext
Her friendship with President George W. Bush
The first major recent incident that caused the public to look at DeGeneres in a different light was seeing her sitting next to former President George W. Bush during a Dallas Cowboys game in October 2019. This shocked her fans, especially since Bush opposed same-sex marriage while president and oversaw the Iraq War. In a monologue, DeGeneres defended herself, saying it was possible to be friends with someone who has differing political views. This inspired a viral video that replaced the blue screen background set of the Ellen show with photos of torture during the Iraq War. DeGeneres' legal team sought to delete the video.prevnext
Dakota Johnson's birthday invitation
In late November 2019, actor Dakota Johnson appeared on Ellen, where DeGeneres criticized Johnson for not inviting her to her 30th birthday in October. Johnson said this was not true. "Ask everybody. Ask Jonathan, your producer," Johnson said. It was later confirmed behind the scenes that DeGeneres was invited. DeGeneres said she "had that thing" and it was "too far" for her to go to Malibu. The party was on Oct. 5. On Oct. 6, DeGeneres was in Dallas sitting next to Bush.prevnext
DeGeneres compared her self-quarantine at home to jail time
Back in April, DeGeneres caused a backlash when she compared filming her show at her million-dollar home to ail time. "One thing I've learned from being in quarantine is... this is like being in jail, is what it is," she said in an episode. "It's mostly because I've been wearing the same clothes for 10 days and everyone in here is gay." DeGeneres laughed, adding, "The jokes that I have... I feel bad for the kids at home, all the college students, all the parents. I feel bad for a lot of people." People who do not live in multi-million homes found this comparison distasteful.prevnext
The incident with Kathy Griffin at the Emmys
In 2016, Kathy Griffin published a book on her run-ins with other celebrities. In one story, she said a "certain beloved daytime talk show host once had me kicked out of a backstage dressing room at the Emmy Awards." Griffin added, "I can't prove it, but this person, who has short blonde hair, has a mean streak that all of Hollywood knows about." Griffin did not name DeGeneres in her book, but she later admitted it was the Ellen host in an Access Hollywood interview.prevnext
A thread of instances of DeGeneres being 'mean' goes viral on Twitter
Right now we all need a little kindness. You know, like Ellen Degeneres always talks about! 😊❤️
She’s also notoriously one of the meanest people alive
Respond to this with the most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean & I’ll match every one w/ $2 to @LAFoodBank— Kevin T. Porter (@KevinTPorter) March 20, 2020
On March 20, comedian Kevin T. Porter asked Twitter users to share the "most insane stories" about DeGeneres "being mean" and vowed to donate $2 to the Los Angeles Food Bank for every message he received. The tweet went viral, and just two days later, he donated $600. One of the may responses came from author Alison Freer, who tweeted, "Was working on a show @ WB that was next to her stage. Was our showrunner's 50th Bday. Caterer grilling steaks outside for special fancy lunch. Ellen sent someone over to demand they stop, as she doesn't eat meat. She's the worst."prevnext
Issues leading up to workplace environment investigation0comments
The BuzzFeed reports were not the first to come out before WarnerMedia launched its investigation. In April, sources told Variety that crew members were "distressed and outraged" by the lack of communication between producers and staff as the show went remote to film new episodes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Days later, YouTube star Nikkie de Jager described being on the show as "Teletubbies after dark." When she arrived at the set, she was greeted by an "angry intern who was a bit overworked." Then, Tom Majerack, who worked as a bodyguard for DeGeneres at the 2014 Oscars, said he found DeGeneres to be "cold" and did not even say hello to her.prev