Warner Bros. Executives Addressed "Unacceptable Behavior" After Employees Alleged Misconduct At TMZ And "The Ellen Show"
"I am both concerned and disappointed," WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said in a staff memo Thursday.
Warner Bros. executives on Thursday addressed allegations of workplace misconduct made by dozens of former and current employees against executives at the studio's properties TMZ and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
"I am both concerned and disappointed by public reports regarding patterns of unacceptable behavior that have been raised in recent weeks," WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar told staff in an email obtained by BuzzFeed News.
In another memo reviewed by BuzzFeed News, Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff said she had also "empowered, and will hold accountable, the Studios and Networks HR and Legal teams to act on any issues that are brought to them. These groups are a safe harbor where you can register any concerns."
The messages come more than a week after BuzzFeed News reported on a wide range of allegations from dozens of current and former employees, which included verbal abuse, misogyny, racism, and other inappropriate behavior in the TMZ newsroom, as well as claims of rampant sexual harassment and misconduct at The Ellen Show.
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One current employee, who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution, told BuzzFeed News in recent days that there had been radio silence from TMZ cofounder Harvey Levin and other Warner Bros. executives, and that staff members were frustrated that their concerns weren't appearing to be taken seriously. Levin did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The employees had come forward after an ex-colleague filed a lawsuit against TMZ's parent companies alleging gender discrimination and retaliation. A TMZ spokesperson called the claims a “blatant attempt to use negative publicity and inaccurate claims to force” a monetary settlement.
“TMZ has a history of doing this, sweeping things under the rug, and thinking that the news will move on to something else,” one current employee, who asked not to be identified, said.
In his message Thursday, Kilar said Warner Bros. would be communicating to all existing and prospective partners, including the "active and potential motion picture and television productions," a clear requirement "that people be treated with dignity and our intention to sever ties where patterns of behavior are at odds with that requirement."
He also said Warner Bros. engaged a third party to do "an objective, proactive review across our production business" to understand if there is "any pattern of behavior that is at odds with our need to treat each other with dignity."
The messages on Thursday also come just days before another Warner Bros. production grappling with misconduct allegations, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, is scheduled to debut its new season.
Ellen Show executive producers Ed Glavin and Kevin Leman and co–executive producer Jonathan Norman were fired in August following allegations from former employees that managers engaged in blatant sexual harassment and used fear and intimidation to run the show.
After initial silence, DeGeneres apologized to staff, saying she was "disappointed to learn" of the allegations.
"Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show,” she wrote. She has since said she plans to address the allegations in her opening monologue.
Glavin has not responded to BuzzFeed News’ requests for comment. In a prior statement to BuzzFeed News, Leman said he categorically denied "any kind of sexual impropriety." Norman also said he was "100% categorically denying" the allegations.