Ellen DeGeneres apologizes, but admits her kind reputation is ‘tricky’
TV host Ellen DeGeneres made good on her promise Monday to talk about the misconduct allegations that dogged her show over this “horrible summer” and also explained her “tricky position” of being called “the ‘be kind’ lady.”
In the monologue for her Season 18 opener, the embattled comedian returned to her studio on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank and welcomed her virtual audience to what she hoped would be “the best season that we have ever had” — a chapter she began with an apology.
“As you may have heard, this summer, there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show, and then there was an investigation. 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 who were affected,” DeGeneres said in the premiere’s monologue, which was taped earlier Monday and posted on YouTube before the syndicated show ran later in the day.
The “Ellen” scandal has gripped us in part because it’s so familiar: From “Larry Sanders” to “The Morning Show,” TV sees itself as an awful place to work.
“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,” she continued.
Controversy has loomed over the Emmy-winning show since March after a viral Twitter thread by Kevin T. Porter. The comedian solicited negative experiences related to the series and its host, whom he accused of being “notoriously one of the meanest people alive.”
Allegations culminated in a July BuzzFeed story alleging instances of intimidation of current and former employees. Some crew members complained that they were abandoned during the spring production shutdown. A second report detailed instances of sexual misconduct involving the show’s three top producers.
In August, executive producers Ed Glavin and Kevin Leman and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman stepped down after an investigation by the Warner Bros.-produced talk show.
After months during which criticisms from former and current employees of the show’s workplace culture were reported, star Ellen DeGeneres told her staff she would tackle the issues.
While the celebrated host issued an apology in a July memo to her staff, Monday marked the first time she did so publicly as her reputation continued to diminish over the summer and online campaigns pondered who should replace her.
“This is ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show.’ I am Ellen DeGeneres. My name is there. My name is there. My name is on underwear,” DeGeneres said during the monologue. “We have had a lot of conversations over the last few weeks about the show, our workplace, and what we want for the future. We have made the necessary changes, and today we are starting a new chapter.”
The happy-go-lucky-branded host also explained how her “be kind” moniker came about and how it was used against her amid the scandal.
“There were also articles in the press and on social media that said that I am not who I appeared to be on TV, because I became known as the ‘be kind’ lady. And here’s how that happened: I started saying, ‘be kind to one another’ [to close each show] after a young man named Tyler Clementi took his own life after being bullied for being gay,” DeGeneres said.
“Being known as the ‘be kind’ lady is a tricky position to be in. The truth is, I am that person that you see on TV. I’m also a lot of other things. 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. And I’m especially working on the impatience thing. And it’s not going well. It’s not happening fast enough.”
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She also said she wasn’t a good enough actress to fool people daily for 17 years.
“I got into this business to make people laugh and feel good. That’s my favorite thing to do. That and Jenga,” she said. “And now, I am a boss of 270 people. Two hundred seventy people who help make this show what it is. Two hundred seventy people who I am so grateful for. All I want is for every single one of them to be happy and to be proud to work here.”
She talked about the helplessness that she and others had felt during this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment, wildfires and “blatant racial injustice,” hoping to offer viewers an hour of escapism each day.
“I watch the news, and I feel like, where do we even begin?” she said. “So my hope is that we can still be a place of happiness and joy. I still want to be the one hour a day that people can go to escape and laugh.”
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