Ellen DeGeneres has decided to end her daytime talk show, which has faltered in the ratings after allegations of a toxic workplace environment where top producers engaged in a wide range of sexual misconduct with lower-level employees.
Representatives for the show did not immediately return requests for comment, but in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, DeGeneres said her upcoming 19th season will be the last. She also framed the decision around the show no longer being a creative challenge.
“When you’re a creative person, you constantly need to be challenged – and as great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge anymore,” DeGeneres told the Hollywood Reporter.
The news was first reported by the Daily Mail.
But the decision to end her Emmy Award–winning show also comes after BuzzFeed News reports detailed a wide range of allegations from current and former employees, including that three of the show’s executive producers oversaw a workplace culture where sexual harassment and inappropriate touching was pervasive, prompting an internal WarnerMedia investigation.
Soon after the investigation was launched, DeGeneres sent a letter to staff, responding to former employees who said racism, fear, and intimidation were commonplace. In her message, DeGeneres said she had come to rely on others to stay on top of the daily operation, but added: “My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that.”
In August, DeGeneres announced executive producers Ed Glavin and Kevin Leman, and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman had been fired.
But her apology couldn't stem the fallout. Months later, the show was losing advertisers, struggling to book A-list celebrities, and suffering a dip in ratings during what is usually the busiest time of year, sources with knowledge of the situation told BuzzFeed News.
In her interview with the Hollywood Reporter, DeGeneres said she had been contemplating leaving the show for several years, but was convinced to stay on. But then reports of misconduct started emerging, and "unfortunately, I learned that through the press."
"And at first I didn’t believe it because I know how happy everybody is here and how every guest talks about, 'Man, you have a great place here. Of all the talk shows I’ve done, everyone here is so happy.' That’s all I’ve ever heard," she said. "So, there was an internal investigation, obviously, and we learned some things but this culture we’re living is [is one where] no one can make mistakes. And I don’t want to generalize because there are some bad people out there and those people shouldn’t work again but, in general, the culture today is one where you can’t learn and grow, which is, as human beings, what we’re here to do."
DeGeneres' departure from daytime television marks a stunning fall for a comedian who got her start doing stand-up comedy before going on to build an empire based on her observational brand of humor and reputation as the “Queen of Nice.” She achieved household name status in the ’90s starring in the ABC sitcom Ellen, where she made history in 1997 when her character came out as gay.
She launched The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2003, and it quickly became one of the top-rated daytime television shows, as well as a popular promotional stop for celebrities.
A huge part of her branding included her oft-used phrase “be kind to one another” — but in recent years, that mantra started to be challenged by employees and former guests.
In April 2020, beauty YouTuber Nikkie de Jager accused DeGeneres of being “cold and distant” when she appeared on her show months earlier. DeGeneres's bodyguard at the 2014 Academy Awards also spoke out about how unfriendly she was.
Variety also reported in April 2020 that crew members for the talk show were outraged over how top producers handled the production shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying they had received no written communication about their working hours or pay for over a month.
Then in July, BuzzFeed News reported on allegations of a toxic workplace, where former employees said they were fired after taking bereavement time off for family emergencies. Others cited repeated incidents of managers making racist comments.
That report spurred an internal investigation. In a statement on July 30, Warner Bros. said that although “not all of the allegations were corroborated, we are disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management.”
That same day, DeGeneres sent an apology to her staff, saying the show was supposed to be a place of “happiness” where “everyone would be treated with respect.”
“Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry,” she said.
Hours later, BuzzFeed News published a second report, this time centered on allegations of rampant sexual misconduct among three male executive producers —Glavin, Norman, and Leman. The allegations included groping, inappropriate touching, and soliciting oral sex from staffers. Norman and Leven strongly denied the allegations. Glavin did not respond to a request for comment.
DeGeneres’s mea culpa amid the exposés did little to appease staff members, who called her apology disingenuous.
One longtime current employee told BuzzFeed News that DeGeneres’s letter to staffers didn’t seem to be written by the talk show host herself.
“If I wanted to think there was going to be one ounce of hope to save the show, she really had to come out and be genuine and I just don’t believe it,” the employee said. “She’s doing what she’s told to save what she can of the image she has left.”
DeGeneres reportedly informed her staff of the decision to end the show Tuesday and plans to sit down with Oprah Winfrey to discuss the news on Thursday.