TV star Ellen DeGeneres finally addressed criticisms of her show's workplace culture, after months of anonymous complaints piled up from former and current employees who reported experiencing racism and intimidation.
In a memo sent to the staff of the Warner Bros.-produced talk show, DeGeneres said that she and the studio would immediately take steps to address the issues raised. Senior-level staffing changes were expected.
"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 said in the memo viewed by The Times. "Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again."
DeGeneres was awarded the medal of freedom by President Obama in 2016, acknowledging the courage it took to come out to a national audience as gay 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."
The statement addresses months during which reports have described mistreatment of the show's crew and a toxic workplace.
The criticisms were in stark contrast to the image of Ellen who is seen as a happy-go-lucky comedian with the tag line “Be kind to one another,” and who describes her show as "a place of happiness."
"I want everyone at home to love our show and I want everyone who makes it to love working on it," DeGeneres said. "I’m so sorry to anyone who didn’t have that experience. If not for COVID, I’d have done this in person, and I can’t wait to be back on our stage and see you all then."
A BuzzFeed News report quoted anonymous current and former employees alleging they had been fired for taking medical or bereavement leave; one said she was a victim of racial discrimination. There were also concerns among the crew about their pay and treatment during the production shutdown due to the pandemic.
WarnerMedia said it took the allegations seriously and interviewed dozens of current and former employees about the environment at "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" as part of an ongoing investigation.
Although the studio said it could not corroborate all of the allegations, it said it was disappointed that its primary findings indicated "some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management."
As a result, staffing changes were planned, the company said.
"We have identified several staffing changes, along with appropriate measures to address the issues that have been raised, and are taking the first steps to implement them," the company said in a statement. "Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres are all committed to ensuring a workplace based on respect and inclusion."