Former employees of The Ellen Show say they’re glad the once-beloved pillar of daytime television taking her show off the air, the ultimate consequence of being the face and leader of a TV show where they say misconduct ran rampant behind the scenes for years.
“I think this is ‘consequence culture.’ People are like, ‘cancel culture,’ but no, this is a consequence of somebody and an institution that got away with fostering a super unhealthy and toxic work environment for a really long time,” one former employee said. “I think they did all the right things to make it look like they were making changes — they fired some people, they gave tWitch an executive producer position because they didn't have a lot of diversity, and they made it look like they did all the right things, but it still wasn't enough. It all comes out in the wash at the end, and you realize this is really what she deserves and what the show deserves.”
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, DeGeneres denied she was ending her show because of the workplace allegations. Instead, she wanted to end to be Season 19 because, “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.” But former employees who agreed to speak about the situation without their names being used for fear of repercussions in the entertainment industry said BuzzFeed News stories on allegations of behind-the-scenes sexual misconduct, racism, and intimidation took their toll on ratings and the desire to soldier on through the controversy.
“I think that she only came back to this past season because she probably had to [in order] to save face,” one former employee said. “The show took a tank. The ratings tanked for a lot of reasons — we had a pandemic — but they also tanked because she's unlikeable now and it definitely permeated the culture of how people feel about Ellen.”
Another former employee agreed, saying if The Ellen Show was maintaining its popularity with viewers it would be hard for DeGeneres and Warner Bros. to walk away.
“If the ratings were still phenomenal, if her ratings were wonderful and none of this stuff came out about the show, why wouldn't she sign on for another five years like Oprah and do 25 years?” the former employee said. “If none of this came out, she'd still be going strong, laughing all the way to the bank, and getting that daily applause.”
Warner Bros. did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Wednesday. In July 2020, the studio launched an internal investigation and said in a statement, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show is, and has always strived to be, a place that brings positivity to the world. And though 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.”
When asked about the allegations in the interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the talk show host responded, “It was very hurtful to me. I mean, very.”
“But if I was quitting the show because of that, I wouldn’t have come back this season. So, it’s not why I’m stopping, but it was hard because I was sitting at home, it was summer, and I see a story that people have to chew gum before they talk to me and I’m like, ‘OK, this is hilarious,’” DeGeneres said. “Then I see another story of some other ridiculous thing and then it just didn’t stop. And I wasn’t working, so I had no platform, and I didn’t want to address it on [Twitter] and I thought, ‘If I just don’t address it, it’s going to go away,’ because it was all so stupid.”
One former employee took up an issue with the way DeGeneres addressed the allegations of sexual misconduct, racism, and intimidation in her workplace, calling her response “tone-deaf” by “making it all about her.” According to the former employee, the way DeGeneres continues to dismiss the allegations, despite the fact that three top producers were fired from the show after WarnerMedia launched a third-party investigation, “lacks humility” and doesn’t “take any kind of responsibility for the fact that this happened under her umbrella.”
“She said, ‘Oh, this hurt me so deeply.’ Well, guess what, it hurt a lot of people so deeply, you're not the only one. It hurt you so deeply because you got called out in a public forum. But, you know, it came from the top and it happened to many people. It was not an isolated incident,” the employee said, noting that the workplace environment “wasn’t an accident. It didn’t just happen. It wasn’t a one-off situation.”
“You have a billion bucks in your bank account. It didn't hurt you that deeply. This hurt other people's livelihoods, working people who are taking care of their families and who don't have the fame and power and money that she has,” the former employee added. “She wants to move the hell on and get away from all the ugliness. But calling [the allegations] ‘stupid’ does not show any sense of seriousness that you actually got it. It’s insulting and degrading to the multiple people who suffered for years.”
One former employee said they’re “bummed” for the show’s current staffers who have to find new work after next year, but that “there are greener pastures once they are able to lift their heads out of the Ellen bubble.”
“I think that those people will realize that there's so much more out there and that they can work in a nontoxic work environment,” the former employee said.
According to former employees, the aftermath of top producers being fired from The Ellen Show, plummeting ratings, and now the show coming to an end with skepticism from viewers is a signal to other TV shows and workplaces to improve working conditions and be accountable.
“I hope that it's highlighting more of that toxic fucking environment that you guys can't get away with too much anymore,” one former employee said. “There are places that you can be at where work is good.”
As for The Ellen Show’s legacy, the former employee said they’re relieved that reports about the inner workings of what went on behind the scenes became public in an effort to hold DeGeneres and other executives accountable.
“The truth came out. I'm glad it finally came out,” the former employee said. “She's going down with a stain on her name. That whole show is just going down with the truth.”