As Ashton Kutcher and Jay Leno support Ellen DeGeneres, a backlash brews
Even as Ashton Kutcher and Jay Leno joined fellow A-listers Kevin Hart, Katy Perry and Diane Keaton in their public support of Ellen DeGeneres on Tuesday, there was growing pushback challenging the celebrities’ experiences with the embattled TV host versus what her employees might have faced at work.
That criticism included comments from Twitter users as well as observations from Rachel Bloom, the former star, writer and executive producer of the comedy-musical series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”
As Ellen DeGeneres faces backlash about her behavior and her TV show’s workplace environment, some celebrity friends are coming to her defense.
DeGeneres, of course, is at the middle of a conflict involving allegations by current and former employees that they experienced intimidation and racism while working on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” where the tagline offered to viewers each day is “Be kind to one another.”
“I don’t discard a 40-year friendship on hearsay,” fellow comic and former “Tonight Show” host Leno tweeted Tuesday. “The Ellen I know has raised over $125 million dollars for charity and has always been a kind and decent person. I fully support her.”
Hours later, Kutcher added his two cents’ worth.
“I haven’t spoken with @TheEllenShow and can only speak from my own experience,” the “Two and a Half Men” alumnus tweeted. “She & her team have only treated me & my team w/ respect & kindness. She never pandered to celebrity which I always saw as a refreshing honesty. When things aren’t right she handles it and fixes.”
Kutcher followed that statement by answering a few of the commenters who called him out as a celebrity who might have gotten different treatment.
“Oh she treats billionaire A list guests well? You don’t say,” one user tweeted, with Kutcher replying, “1. I’m not a billionaire. 2. it extends to my team and people she didn’t even know I work with.”
“Too bad her staff doesn’t have ‘teams,’” another user said.
“No but they are part of one and those individuals should be held accountable,” Kutcher said in response.
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The conversation that followed Bloom’s tweets was a bit more in-depth. Amid the burst of celebrity support for DeGeneres, Bloom offered a different take on the situation.
“Just wanna say that I have both worked behind the scenes of tv shows and been the celebrity guest on them and the two experiences are very different,” Bloom tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “Having a good time being a guest does not necessarily have anything to do with the experiences of the employees.”
“I’m not saying this to put anyone on blast, I just wanted to offer my POV as someone who’s had the amazing fortune to experience both worlds,” she continued. “Also, I’m not implying that anywhere I’ve worked or guested on has been bad. I just know that they are two profoundly different experiences.”
Bloom didn’t reply to any of the comments that followed, though they were full of “thank you” messages for expressing what others were thinking.
There were also stories from people who shared their experiences working on various TV and movie sets (including one from a guy who said the “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” set was the worst place he’d ever worked).
“I used to PA in NYC and there are many people who were terrible to work for who would turn around and be nothing but wonderful to anyone above the line. I can’t speak to this exact show/circumstance, but I trust what crew members have to say more than any exec’s peers,” Twitter user @helenaoftroy commented. “It’s the same idea for me as seeing someone’s true colors by how they treat waiters at restaurants.”
Another commenter chimed in: “A celebrity saying a TV host was nice to them is like a supermodel saying dating is so easy and fun.”
After several reports of a toxic working environment on the set of the comedian’s show, distributor Warner Bros. has brought in consultants to examine the claims.
About two weeks ago, Telepictures, a unit of Warner Bros. Entertainment, informed staff on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” that it was enlisting WarnerMedia’s employee relations team and a third-party consultant to interview current and former employees about their experiences on the production.
The memo asked those approached to participate openly in the confidential process so it could improve the environment on the show.
The allegations of a toxic workplace, rumored for years, were prefaced by complaints from current staff that top producers were uncommunicative about crew members’ fate during the coronavirus crisis.
DeGeneres finally responded to the controversy last week in an internal memo that was viewed by The Times. She has not given a public statement.
While “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” continues to tape at the host’s home, core crew members are reportedly upset over a lack of communication from top producers.
“As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done,” DeGeneres wrote in the memo. “Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.”
She continued with a reference to what happened after she came out publicly as a lesbian in 1997.
“I’m also learning that people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop,” the comedian said. “As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or — worse — disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.”
Senior-level staffing changes are expected on the show.
Times staff writer Anousha Sakoui contributed to this report.
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