Ellen DeGeneres Jokes That Her Staff Isn't Allowed to Look Her in the Eye in First Episode Since Controversy

Ellen DeGeneres is laughing off some of the allegations made against her, joking about some of the specifics of the toxic workplace internal investigation into her talk show in the Season 18 premiere of The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Monday. As the show returned for the first time since several former and current employees claimed that they had faced racism, sexual harassment and intimidation from high-ranking producers, DeGeneres poked fun at some of the claims made about her own behavior.

"I’m excited to see all of my staff and my crew," she said. "Hi, everybody. Please don’t look me in the eye. Oh, I’m kidding. But I will be passing out gum for everyone. Kidding again." DeGeneres was clearly making reference to accusations that she instructed staff members not to make eye contact with her on set and had banned her employees from chewing gum due to the scent. As WarnerMedia announced it would be launching an internal investigation into the allegations — which resulted in the firing of executive producers Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman and Jonathan Norman — DeGeneres issued an internal apology, claiming she was unaware of the culture on set.

The Finding Dory star issued a public apology on Monday's show as well. "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 that were affected," she began her first monologue of the season. "I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show. This is The Ellen DeGeneres Show. I am Ellen DeGeneres."

The talk show host continued that the show had "made the necessary changes" behind the scenes and was ready to begin a "new chapter" before addressing claims that she isn't nearly as kind as her public persona lets on. "The truth is, I am that person that you see on TV. I am also a lot of other things," she explained. "Sometimes I get sad. I get mad. I get anxious. I get frustrated. I get impatient. And I am working on all of that. I am a work in progress."

That being said, DeGeneres said she didn't think she was a good enough actress to fool audiences every day for 17 years. "This is me, and my intention is to always be the best person I can be. And if I’ve ever let someone down, if I’ve ever hurt their feelings, I’m so sorry for that."