The Ellen DeGeneres Show is being investigated by WarnerMedia, multiple outlets reported on Monday, following an exposé published by BuzzFeed earlier this month. The article alleged that the daytime show hosted by Ellen DeGeneres is home to a toxic work environment.
Representatives for Warner Bros. Television and the show’s production company, Telepictures, declined to comment when reached by Vanity Fair; a spokesperson for The Ellen DeGeneres Show itself also declined to comment.
As first reported by Variety and confirmed by the New York Times, executives sent a memo to staff last week discussing the investigation. According to two people who spoke to the Times, “WarnerMedia’s employee relations department, along with representatives from an outside company, will interview current and former staff members about their experiences on the program.”
In the BuzzFeed story, 10 former employees and one current staffer described what they alleged to be a “toxic work environment” at The Ellen DeGeneres Show, a stark contrast to the positive, sunny program that DeGeneres has hosted for 17 years. “That ‘be kind’ bullshit only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show,” one former employee told BuzzFeed News. “I know they give money to people and help them out, but it’s for show.”
In response to the allegations made in the story, executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner said in a joint statement, “Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1,000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe, and inclusive work environment. We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us. For the record, the day-to-day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”
Thus far DeGeneres herself has not made any public comment on the claims of the show’s former and current staff.
The BuzzFeed report and subsequent investigation are the latest controversies to befall DeGeneres and her show this year. In April, Variety reported that Ellen DeGeneres Show stage crew members were “distressed and outraged over their treatment from top producers amid the coronavirus pandemic” because of poor communication regarding potential changes to hours and pay. Said Warner Bros. Television at the time, “Our executive producers and Telepictures are committed to taking care of our staff and crew and have made decisions first and foremost with them in mind.”
Then in the spring, in response to the death of George Floyd and the nationwide protests against systemic racism, DeGeneres was criticized for making a supportive statement that did not directly mention the Black Lives Matter movement or Black victims of police brutality. In a since-deleted tweet, DeGeneres wrote, “Like so many of you, I am angry and I am sad. People of color in this country have faced injustice for far too long. For things to change, things must change. We must commit ourselves to this change with conviction and with love.”
After her comments drew widespread backlash, DeGeneres elaborated on her feelings during an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which has shifted to at-home production during the coronavirus pandemic. “I stand with the protesters who are exercising their rights, and I want to be an ally fighting for change,” she said at the time. “As a white person, I don’t always know what to say. I think right now white people have to just sit in our discomfort, and we have to admit there’s a lot we don’t know about Black people’s lives and about a Black person’s experience. There is horrible injustice towards Black people that has been ignored for far too long.”