Ex-staffers slam Ellen ‘apology’
Ellen DeGeneres has been slammed by some of her former employees, who have accused her much-anticipated apology as being "fake".
On Monday, DeGeneres addressed allegations of a toxic work environment that have plagued her show in recent months, and led to the sacking of several senior staff members, but many former staffers were not impressed.
"Not only did Ellen turn my trauma, turn our traumas, into a joke, she somehow managed to make this about her," one former employee told BuzzFeed News.
"When she said, 'Oh, my summer was great' and that was supposed to be funny, I thought, 'It's funny that you had a rough summer because everyone was calling out all of the allegations of your toxic work environment and now you're the one suffering?'" another former employee said.
Former employees also felt insulted by DeGeneres' "inappropriate jokes" scattered throughout her monologue given that people had come forward and levelled allegations of sexual misconduct against her former producers.
"When you're talking about people who have accused her leadership of the seriousness of sexual misconduct, I don't think it's appropriate to have jokes in the monologue," a former employee told the outlet.
In her monologue, DeGeneres also quipped that people shouldn't brand themselves the "be kind" person because it allows for little wiggle room, a joke that didn't land with those who allegedly felt her wrath behind closed doors.
"I don't feel sorry that she's in a s***load of trouble because she branded herself the 'be kind' person," a former employee said. "She's acting like it was something she said in passing that just stuck with her. It's not something that stuck with her, it's not an accident. She went forward with this idea and this marketing strategy that was not true behind the scenes."
The former employee continued, "There's nothing wrong with being the 'be kind lady' if you're actually true to your word."
Though former DeGeneres employees felt dissatisfied with her attempt at atonement, a current employee did find her monologue impressive, reports the New York Post.
"It's kind of amazing that this is being discussed on her show," the employee shared. "To actually go from an environment where nothing is said and everyone keeps their head down, to now when it's the topic of her first show back is pretty amazing.
"Whether or not I believe in this message that she is saying is another issue."
The New York Post reported sources as saying the environment on set already feels different and the employees who are working for the show - there are more than 250 - are happy to be back at work.
DeGeneres has also reportedly held numerous Zoom chats with her employees to check in and make sure that they're being heard and valued. Sources told the outlet that the maligned star is more "engaged than ever".
The show's 18th season premiered in the US on Monday (local time), as industry watchers and fans waited to hear what DeGeneres would say about the turmoil surrounding her show.
Although there were no in-studio attendees due to COVID-19 restrictions, DeGeneres spoke to fans who appeared virtually on screens situated in the audience. DeGeneres began the monologue by joking that her break was "super terrific."
In the video, the star wasted no time getting to the scandal during her monologue, admitting that she's a "work in progress" but promising viewers that she is really is "that person that you see on TV."
DeGeneres apologised to viewers, saying she takes responsibility "for what happens at my show."
"As you may have heard, 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've happened," she says. "I take that very seriously, and I want to say I'm so sorry to the people who were affected."
DeGeneres said she recognised how her celebrity has elevated her to a position of "power" and says she should've been more aware of what was going on behind the scenes.
"I know that I'm in a position of privilege and power, and I realise that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show," she continues. "This is 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show,' I am Ellen DeGeneres."
DeGeneres alluded to the firings of top producers Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman and Jonathan Norman.
"We have had a lot of conversations over the last few weeks about the show, our workplace and what we want for the future," she shares. "We have made the necessary changes and today we are starting a new chapter."
DeGeneres also addressed criticisms that she doesn't live up to her upbeat television personality, which she dubbed the "Be Kind Lady," referring to her slogan, "Be kind to one another."
"Being known as the 'Be Kind Lady' is a tricky position to be in," she said. "The truth is I am that person you see on TV. I am 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," said DeGeneres.
"I am especially working on the impatience thing, and it's not going well because it's not happening fast enough, I will tell you that," she joked.
DeGeneres said that while she's a "pretty good actress" - having played a "straight woman in movies" - she jokes she isn't good enough to "fool" everyone every day for 17 years.
"This is me, and my intention is to always be the best person I can be," she says. "If I ever let someone down, if I ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that. If that's ever the case, I let myself down and I hurt myself as well."
She ended her monologue on an optimistic note, saying she hopes her show can still serve as a one-hour distraction.
"My hope is that we can still be a place of happiness and joy," she said. "I'm committed to making this the best season that we have ever had."
But some were not amused by DeGeneres' jokey tone, with several critics on social media saying she still failed to take any responsibility for her own alleged bad behaviour, instead placing the blame squarely on her sacked staffers.
She was supported at the taping by wife Portia DeRossi. Staff members also reportedly clapped when an emotional DeGeneres walked off the set.
One of Australia's leading body language experts, Dr Louise Mahler, told News Corp Australia DeGeneres showed complete confidence with the message she wanted to deliver in her monologue.
She said it was clear is that she was not apologising for the claims made about her show's "toxic work culture".
"In Ellen's statement at the beginning of her program I did not see an apology, what I saw was someone making a statement with the clear message being that she sees herself as a 'work in progress' and that's fair. Who isn't?," she said.
"Before beginning Ellen's eyes were focused away, which shows a distaste in addressing this whole issue.
"As she looked to the camera to address the issue, she shifts her weight to one leg, showing a relaxed position and confidence about her response.
"It is similar to the one leg stance that Obama took when he won office for the second term."
"As she said 'this is a tricky situation' it was noticeable that she stopped for breath, which was congruent with it reflecting 'trickiness'.
"Her fists also clenched, congruent again with the words she was delivering."
Dr Mahler said her confidence and professionalism as a performer shone through as she made two jokes, staying true to her brand.
"Telling the audience to not be known as a 'kind lady' and that she was working on her 'patience' which was not happening fast enough, was a clever use of disarming language in dealing with a tricky situation," she said.
"Ellen delivered her lines perfectly. A professional at work."
This is the first time DeGeneres has publicly addressed viewers since BuzzFeed reported that dozens of current and former employees claimed that executive producers on the show engaged in sexual misconduct and harassment.
A later report also detailed former employees' accounts of racism, fear, and intimidation from top managers. Executive producers Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman, and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman were later fired and a third-party investigation was launched by Warner Media.
The show filmed the episode in the studio for the first time in months after taping from DeGeneres's California mansion during quarantine, but there wasn't a studio audience because of the pandemic.
Originally published as Ex-staffers slam Ellen 'apology'