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The talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres is known for her goofy, friendly, and charming persona on the air, but recent accusations by crew members and a guest on her show have led to a string of bad press.
In late March, the Dutch beauty YouTuber Nikkie de Jager, who goes by NikkieTutorials, said during a talk show in her home country that DeGeneres had been "cold and distant" during de Jager's appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
From there, a Twitter thread asking for stories about DeGeneres being "one of the meanest people alive" quickly spread, garnering more than 2,000 replies.
And DeGeneres has also been accused by former crew members of not communicating with them about payment during the coronavirus shutdown.
The talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres has long been considered a beloved celebrity for her friendly and funny public demeanor. But in 2020, that all could change as complaints of inconsiderate behavior have popped up in recent news stories.
The Dutch beauty YouTuber Nikkie de Jager, also known as NikkieTutorials, was one of the first people to call out DeGeneres, saying on a talk show in her home country that the beloved host was "cold and distant" during de Jager's appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
In April, a Twitter thread asking for stories about DeGeneres being "one of the meanest people alive" was widely shared, garnering more than 2,000 replies of people describing uncomfortable or off-putting experiences with the host.
Crew members for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" also spoke out this month, saying they had not received any communication from DeGeneres or show executives about their pay or working hours during the coronavirus pandemic.
With accusations of unkind or inconsiderate behavior swirling around the talk-show host, it can be hard to keep track of all the controversy. Below, we broke down all the backlash DeGeneres has received this year.
NikkieTutorials in February was one of the first people to speak out
The Dutch beauty vlogger first visited "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in January to discuss her experience as a transgender woman after coming out earlier that month.
"Let me say that there's a big difference between this show and Ellen DeGeneres, and I'm saying that in favor of this show," de Jager told the host Matthijs van Nieuwkerk, according to a translation by the YouTuber Sebastian Williams, a native Dutch speaker. "It's nice that you say 'hi' before the show. She didn't."
When van Nieuwkerk asked de Jager whether DeGeneres was "cold and distant," the beauty YouTuber agreed.
And on Thursday, another interview with de Jager came to light in which she expanded on her experience with DeGeneres and DeGeneres' show. De Jager reportedly told &C Magazine that the friendly, welcoming atmosphere portrayed to viewers wasn't the reality in the studio.
—Pop Crave (@PopCrave) April 16, 2020
"Maybe I'm being naive, but I expected them to welcome me with confetti: Welcome to 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show'!" she said in the interview seen by Pop Crave. "But instead I got greeted by an angry intern, who was a bit overworked. I expected a Disney show, but I got a 'Teletubbies' after dark."
According to de Jager, she didn't receive the same VIP treatment as other celebrity guests on the show, despite having millions of views on her YouTube videos.
"Every guest at Ellen had a private toilet, but I didn't," she said, referring to a bathroom. "I couldn't even use the closest toilet to me because it was reserved for the Jonas brothers."
In April, a Twitter thread asking for stories about DeGeneres being 'one of the meanest people alive' received more than 2,000 responses
A comedian named Kevin T. Porter crowdsourced "insane stories you've heard about Ellen being mean" in exchange for $2 donations to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank — and received thousands of responses.
—Kevin T. Porter (@KevinTPorter) March 20, 2020
While the accuracy of the stories is impossible to verify from tweets alone, news outlets including Insider picked up on the thread. One Twitter user accused DeGeneres of using her fan art as a prop, while another described her getting mad at a server with chipped nail polish who waited on the host and her wife, Portia, at brunch.
—Danielle Acevedo (@daniianita96) March 23, 2020
—Chris Farah (@ChrisLFarah) March 20, 2020
There were also stories about DeGeneres' behavior while filming, including accusations that she wouldn't let crew members eat meat, that she fired an autistic custodian for greeting her, and that she made anyone entering her office chew gum from a bowl outside her door since she had a "sensitive nose."
DeGeneres hasn't responded publicly to any of the accusations. A representative for the talk-show host didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment regarding this story.
—Alison Freer ✂️ (@AlisonVFreer) March 20, 2020
—Josh Levesque (@JoshBLevesque) March 20, 2020
—Benjamin Siemon (@BenjaminJS) March 20, 2020
The host also faced backlash after joking that self-isolating in her mansion was 'like being in jail'
On her April 6 show, DeGeneres compared self-isolating in her California mansion to being in prison — and Twitter users were quick to call out the talk-show host for what they felt was an insensitive remark.
"One thing I've learned from being in quarantine is that people — this is like being in jail, is what this is," DeGeneres said during the segment, adding, "It's mostly because I've been wearing the same clothes for 10 days, and everyone in here is gay."
DeGeneres seemed amused by her comparison, smiling and remarking, "The jokes that I have."
After DeGeneres shared the clip on Twitter, users were quick to call out the host for her remarks about prisons, especially during a time when prison inmates are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Some pointed out that inmates in prisons were far more likely to die from the novel coronavirus than the larger population — especially wealthy people like DeGeneres.
—Mike Sington (@MikeSington) April 6, 2020
—itsagundam (@GundamIsHere) April 7, 2020
—blackness everdeen 🐺 (@traceyecorder) April 7, 2020
—Rebecca Kavanagh (@DrRJKavanagh) April 8, 2020
Kevin Winter/One Voice: Somos Live!/Getty Images
In April, news broke that DeGeneres' crew was 'furious' about a lack of communication over their pay during the coronavirus shutdown
Variety cited two anonymous sources as saying that the long-running talk show's core stage crew — which consists of more than 30 employees — had not received any communication about the status of their working hours or pay and that producers had not checked in about their mental and physical health.
Furthermore, the report said crew members were left in the dark about how much they would be paid, or whether they would be paid at all, for more than two weeks.
DeGeneres' show has continued to air, with the host recording from her home in California, but Variety reported that only four members of the core crew were working on the show's lockdown edition, with a nonunion tech company being brought on to help as well.
And despite a statement from Warner Bros. Television saying the crew had been paid at a consistent rate (albeit at reduced hours), crew members are still said to be upset about a lack of personal care from the show — and feel the way they have been treated is not in keeping with DeGeneres' famous "be kind" advice.
Such reports are a stark contrast with other shows. Stage hands on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" were paid by the host Jimmy Kimmel himself during initial COVID-19 shutdowns, for example, and are now being paid their full rates by ABC after returning to the air remotely. "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver" and "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee" have also been transparent in their communication with staff and crew and are paying full rates.
A former bodyguard for the host said his experience with her at the 2014 Oscars was 'kind of demeaning'
Tom Majercak was hired to protect DeGeneres, her mother, and her wife Portia de Rossi as they attended the 86th Academy awards, which DeGeneres was hosting.
But the bodyguard told Fox News in April that his experience with DeGeneres was less than ideal.
"I'm holding their hands and walking them through individuals and large groups of people. Ellen is the one person that I've been assigned to — and I've been assigned to quite a few celebrities — that has never taken the time to say hi to me," Majercak said.
According to the bodyguard, DeGeneres' wife de Rossi was "very pleasant" throughout the evening and "carried on a conversation," but things "started going negatively" when de Rossi introduced him to the talk show host.
"Ellen pretty much just gave me a side glance out of her eye and didn't even say 'hello,' or 'thank you for protecting my mother, my wife and me,'" Majercak told Fox News, adding, "It was very cold and it was very sly and it was actually kind of demeaning in the way that she treats people other than those who are in her circle."
A former producer for DeGeneres' show said that the host once called Steve Jobs to complain about the font size on iPhones
Speaking to the New York Post, the producer, who wasn't named in the Post's May 9 story, said the call to Jobs came after DeGeneres had lost her glasses, and couldn't read a text on her phone.
"She stopped everything and made a call. Next thing we know, we literally hear Steve Jobs pick up and say, 'Hi, Ellen' … Ellen told him the iPhone should have a bigger font," the producer said.
"That's her," the former producer continued. "It's not that she's some demon. She just lives in an incredibly privileged bubble and is out of touch with the real world."
In early July, the hashtag "#RIPEllen" began trending on Twitter — even though DeGeneres was alive and well
After speculation that DeGeneres' popular talk show was going to be canceled, some Twitter users reportedly took things further by spreading false news of DeGeneres' "death."
According to a story from the New York Post published on July 7, people on social media claimed the host had taken her own life in response to the impending "cancellation" of her show — even though the host was still very much alive.
Producers also confirmed with the Post that DeGeneres' show was not, in fact, going to be canceled.
But that didn't stop users from continuing to use the "#RIPEllen" hashtag in their tweets.
Some people shared photos of DeGeneres' celebrity lookalikes (including Jane Lynch's character from "Glee" and Katy Perry), along with their joking condolences for the talk show host. Others noted that the death hoax came after a turbulent past few months for DeGeneres.
AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
News broke in late July that WarnerMedia, the distributor of 'The Ellen Show,' was launching an internal investigation into the show's workplace culture
Variety reported an "employee relations group and a third party firm" would conduct the investigation, interviewing current and former employees about their time on set.
The investigation came after a turbulent past few months for DeGeneres, the show, and some of its employees, who were reportedly left in the dark about pay and hours during the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Shortly thereafter, an Australian radio host said he was instructed not to look at or talk to DeGeneres when working with her in 2013
During a segment on his radio show "4BC Breakfast" on July 28, Neil Breen said he worked as an executive producer on the Australian "Today" show at the time.
According to Breen, DeGeneres' involvement on the episode "got watered-down" from co-hosting to doing a sit-down interview in Melbourne, where Breen and his crew had to fly ("at our own expense") to tape the segment.
Australian TV presenter Richard Wilkins was set to interview DeGeneres, but Breen said that he and the rest of his team received a very specific set of rules when working with her.
"Because it's 'The Ellen Show,' they controlled everything," Breen explained. "They controlled the interview seats, the lights, how it would work, everything."
"The producers called us aside and said, 'This is how it's going to work here this morning. Ellen's going to arrive at 10:15, and she'll be sitting in this chair here. And Richard, you'll be sitting in this chair here,'" he continued.
According to Breen, DeGeneres' team told him, "Neil, no one's to talk to Ellen. You don't talk to her, you don't approach her, you don't look at her. She'll come in, she'll sit down, she'll talk to Richard, then Ellen will leave."
Breen said he found the whole thing "bizarre."
"I'm not blaming Ellen, because I didn't get to talk to her. I don't know whether she's a nice person or not. I wouldn't have a clue," he said. "But I can tell you, the people who worked with her walked on eggshells the whole time."
DeGeneres addressed 'issues' at her show with a letter to staff in late July
In the letter, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, DeGeneres takes responsibility for the overall issues on her set. She does not directly address any allegations of her personal actions but says she was "disappointed to learn" that people working for her did not feel happy or respected on set.
"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. "Clearly some didn't. That will now change and I'm committed to ensuring this does not happen again."
The host referenced the ongoing investigation by WarnerMedia, and apologized at the beginning and end of the letter to anyone who was not treated with fairness and respect.
'Everybody Loves Raymond' star Brad Garrett said DeGeneres mistreating people is 'common knowledge'
"Sorry but it comes from the top @TheEllenShow. Know more than one who were treated horribly by her. Common knowledge," Garrett tweeted on July 30.
—Brad Garrett (@RealBradGarrett) July 31, 2020
And "Back to the Future" star Lea Thompson agreed, responding to a tweet from People magazine about Garrett's comments.
"True story. It is," she tweeted.
—Lea Thompson (@LeaKThompson) July 31, 2020
Kevin Mazur/TCA 2012 /Getty Images
Scooter Braun came to DeGeneres' defense on August 1, and a producer for the show said 'nobody is going off the air' in reference to cancellation rumors
Braun, who manages stars like Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, defended the comedian in a series of tweets on Friday.
"People love to take shots at people. They love to see people fall. How quickly so many forget," he wrote.
Braun continued to call DeGeneres a "kind, thoughtful, courageous human being who stands for what is right" and "has helped change the views for equality." He explained that he felt compelled to speak up since he has a "first hand" perspective of how DeGeneres "helps so many" both on and off her show.
"She isn't about what is popular she is about what is right. Sending love to Ellen today," Braun wrote.
—Scooter Braun (@scooterbraun) July 31, 2020
And in response to a tweet by a fan about DeGeneres' show potentially getting canceled, executive producer Andy Lassner said, "Nobody is going off the air."
—andy lassner (@andylassner) July 30, 2020
A recent report suggested that James Corden could replace DeGeneres should her show go off the air
A British newspaper reported on August 1 that James Corden was "in line" to replace Ellen DeGeneres should she quit her namesake show. The report led some people on Twitter to share stories in which they accused the "Late Late Show" host of behaving in a problematic way, too.
The Sun reported that Corden appeared to be in contention as a "long-term successor" to DeGeneres, citing an anonymous source at NBC who said Corden "was being eyed for Ellen's job in the long term" before any of the complaints against her "came to light."
The Sun's source described Corden as "a natural fit" for DeGeneres' job.
Joshua Blanchard/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images/Chris Pizzello/AP
In early August, several other ex-employees of DeGeneres came forward to share their experiences with her on set
Former producer Hedda Muskat told The Wrap about an incident during a staff meeting where new-at-the-time executive producers Ed Glavin and Mary Connelly were introduced to the rest of the existing team.
Muskat said Glavin screamed at one member of staff in front of everybody else. "He just went off on them. His whole face turned red… We were stunned."
"I was waiting for Ellen to say something. 'Whoa, Ed, don't talk like that,'" Muskat said. "Do you know what she did? She giggled. She crossed her legs up on the chair and she said, 'Well, I guess every production needs their dog.' And from then we knew. Ed was going to be the barking dog — her dog."
"I had never seen this before. I had never been around a toxic host," she added.
And former DJ for "The Ellen Show" Tony Okungbowa shared a statement about his experience shortly thereafter.
"While I am grateful for the opportunity it afforded me, I did experience and feel the toxicity of the environment and I stand with my former colleagues in their quest to create a healthier and more inclusive workplace as the show moves forward," Okungbowa wrote on Instagram.
Celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry, and DeGeneres' wife Portia de Rossi have spoken out in support of the embattled host
"I haven't spoken with @TheEllenShow and can only speak from my own experience," Kutcher tweeted in early August. "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."
—ashton kutcher (@aplusk) August 5, 2020
Kutcher was subsequently called out by fans who accused him of letting his celebrity status potentially influence his opinion.
Other stars who voiced support for DeGeneres included Katy Perry, who tweeted that she has "only ever had positive takeaways from my time with Ellen & on the @theellenshow," and DeGeneres' wife De Rossi, who shared an uplifting message to Instagram.
—KATY PERRY (@katyperry) August 4, 2020
—KATY PERRY (@katyperry) August 4, 2020
If you've had an experience with Ellen DeGeneres that you'd like to share on the record, please email email@example.com.
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