Ellen DeGeneres has apologized to staff members of her daytime television talk show after several complaints surfaced that she lorded over a toxic work environment while it is reported that a top producer is going to get the ax.
Ed Glavin, one of three executive producers at Ellen, is going to be fired by Warner Bros., the studio in charge of the highly rated and lucrative show, sources told The Hollywood Reporter.
In a letter addressed to her staffers, DeGeneres said that she takes overall responsibility for her namesake show and that there are steps planned that will seek to ‘correct the issues.’
‘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, hinting that senior staffers would be held accountable. ‘Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.’
According to THR, Glavin was at the center of several complaints from staffers.
‘Once he’s out, it will be like a new day,’ according to a source.
Glavin was reportedly responsible for the day-to-day handling of the staff.
Sources told THR that DeGeneres was ‘largely kept shielded’ from Glavin’s conduct toward employees.
Sources also told THR that Glavin is likely to be one of several that will be dismissed.
In a statement the studio acknowledged an investigation and its disappointment.
‘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,” the statement said. “We have identified several staffing changes, along with appropriate measures to address the issues that have been raised, and are taking the first steps to implement them. Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres are all committed to ensuring a workplace based on respect and inclusion. We are confident this course of action will lead us to the right way forward for the show.’
Earlier this month, Glavin and the show’s two other top producers, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner, gave a statement to BuzzFeed News which read: ‘Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe, and inclusive work environment. We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us.’
The news of Glavin’s reported firing comes as Warner Bros. subsidiary Telepictures is about to wrap up an in-house investigation into allegations that Ellen staffers were subjected to bullying, racist comments and abuse.
An internal memo sent last week explained that current and former staff will be interviewed about claims of ‘mistreatment, racism and intimidation’ behind the scenes.
Ellen hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing herself.
The memo insisted that producers Telepictures and Warner Bros. Television are committed ‘to providing an environment where employees can flourish’.
In her letter to staff, DeGeneres noted the irony of the allegations in light of her show’s stated mission to be a ‘place of happiness.’
She also alluded to her highly publicized ‘coming out’ as a lesbian in the 1990s.
‘As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or – worse – disregarded,’ she writes.
Industry observers did not expect the show to be canceled altogether given its popularity and the substantial revenue that it generates for Warner Bros.
According to Forbes, Ellen is a cash cow, bringing in an estimated $35million annually for the studio.
DeGeneres herself is among the highest paid talk show hosts in the country, earning an estimated $50million a year from the program.
Firing a producer and others instead of canceling the entire show appears to be a wise choice, according to Damali Peterman, an entertainment lawyer and conflict mediator.
‘I don’t think there’s the perfect show, the perfect restaurant, the perfect workplace,’ Peterman told DailyMail.com
‘There are solutions that can be brought to light or presented to resolve specific issues.
‘If we know that someone can be called racist, and that can’t be addressed through a dialogue, maybe that person should be terminated.
‘But does that rise to the level of an entire show that employs thousands of people? That’s not the right solution.’
Meanwhile, DeGeneres is likely to come in for criticism from those who say she’s scapegoating Glavin and others who may be fired.
‘Ellen’s statement seems to be an attempt to scam the public into believing that she had no knowledge of the horrific conduct that is now a Warner investigation which could decimate her career into scattered bits across Tinseltown,’ said Eric Schiffer, a brand and reputation management expert.
‘Ellen was about to be buried alive and she only took responsibility because of the threat and pressure of losing her show.
‘If an avalanche of investigators were not closing in on her she would have continued to clam up.
‘Ellen must somehow believe the public is stupid and would accept that she didn’t know what was happening with people in her own production facility on her own payroll.
‘It’s this same display of stone-cold crazy Hollywood arrogance that allowed people to be treated like animals and led to Ellen’s underlying investigation.’
Earlier this week, more allegations surfaced about what has been described as a toxic culture on the set of Ellen.
A senior executive of Australia’s Today show says he was told not to look at or speak to DeGeneres when she appeared on the program back in 2013.
Neil Breen, who now presents his own show, said Ellen’s staff were the only ones who were allowed to interact with her – and they ‘walked on eggshells’, laughing so loudly at her jokes during the interview that he had to tell them to be quiet.
He added that Ellen’s people dictated everything – from seating, to lighting, to how the interview would work – adding that he found the whole situation ‘bizarre’.
Breen told 4BC, the radio station where he is now a host, that Ellen was initially supposed to co-host the Today show during her tour of Australia seven years ago, but the plan was continually changed and watered down by her team.
Eventually, it was agreed that Ellen would do a sit-down interview with entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins in Melbourne – meaning production had to be moved there from Sydney at the show’s expense, Breen said.
Breen said that he and Wilkins arrived at ‘one of the plush hotels in Melbourne’ on the day of the interview to find ‘a lot of people’ from Ellen’s team waiting for them.
‘The producer called us aside and said, “Now Neil, no one is to talk to Ellen. You don’t talk to her, you don’t approach her, you don’t look at her,”‘ he said.
During the interview itself, Breen had to ask Ellen’s staff to stop laughing at her jokes because it was interrupting the recording.
Breen said he had no idea whether Ellen knew what was happening around her, ‘because I never got to talk to her’.
‘I have no idea whether she’s a nice person or not, I wouldn’t have a clue,’ he added. ‘But I can tell you the people who work with her walked on eggshells the whole time.
‘We’re there to do an interview to promote what she’s doing, but you can’t look at her? Someone get real.’
Earlier this month, a number of employees of The Ellen DeGeneres Show described it as a ‘toxic work environment’.
One current and 10 former employees of the daytime chat show accused the three executive producers – Glavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner – of ‘bullying’.
A source told Buzzfeed: ‘The issue is these three executive producers running the show who are in charge of all these people [and] who make the culture and are putting out this feeling of bullying and being mean.
‘They feel that everybody who works at The Ellen Show is lucky to work there: “So if you have a problem, you should leave because we’ll hire someone else because everybody wants to work here.”‘
Although DeGeneres has not been accused of any wrongdoing, employees have claimed they were instructed not to talk to her if they saw her in the building.
One former employee said: ‘If she wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what’s going on. I think the executive producers surround her and tell her, “Things are going great, everybody’s happy,” and she just believes that, but it’s her responsibility to go beyond that.’
A black woman claims she suffered a number of ‘microaggressions’, her request for a raise was ignored and she was accused of ‘walking around looking resentful and angry’ after asking for staff members to undergo diversity and inclusion training.
Another former employee alleges they were fired after taking medical leave for one month following a suicide attempt.
They said: ‘You’d think that if someone just tried to kill themselves, you don’t want to add any more stress to their lives.’
In April, it was reported that the Ellen crew was angry over the lack of communication and transparency from bosses after being forced to take pay cuts when production first shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak.
A group of about 30 staffers were upset that Ellen had hired an external non-union company called Key Code Media to film the show while quarantined at home.
‘Higher-ups in production would occasionally answer phone calls but reveal little’ to the crew members, who had their pay slashed by 40 per cent amid changes brought about by the virus, insiders told Variety.
Sources told the outlet that this was not the case with all the shows, as crews for John Oliver, Desus & Mero, and Samantha Bee were paid their full rates, while Jimmy Kimmel dipped into his own pocket for a time to keep his staff on their regular rates.
Producers responded that ‘our executive producers and Telepictures are committed to taking care of our staff and crew and have made decisions first and foremost with them in mind’.
Earlier this year, numerous reports from previous employees emerged claiming that Ellen had been unfriendly on set and that crew members were warned not to talk to the host or make eye contact.
The backlash against Ellen gained momentum on March 20, when comedian Kevin T. Porter asked his Twitter followers to post their ‘insane’ tales of ‘Ellen being mean’. (Porter’s effort was linked to a charity drive for the Los Angeles Food Bank.)
Writer Ben Simeon responded that ‘a new staff member was told, “Every day [Ellen] picks someone different to really hate. It’s not your fault, just suck it up for the day and she’ll be mean to someone else the next day.” They didn’t believe it, but it ended up being entirely true.’
‘Everyone must chew gum from a bowl outside her office before talking to her and if she thinks you smell that day you have to go home and shower,’ Simeon added in another tweet.
Ellen – who is reportedly worth $330million – has also caught flak for tone deafness after joking that locking down in her opulent mansion was ‘like being in jail.’
It comes after reps for the show were forced to deny reports earlier this month that the program was on the verge of being cancelled.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Ellen has continued to broadcast her daytime show from the living room of the Montecito, California, mansion she shares with her wife, Australian actress Portia De Rossi, 47.
Below is DeGeneres’ full letter to her staff:
I could not have the success I’ve had without all of your contributions. My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that. Alongside Warner Bros, we immediately began an internal investigation and we are taking steps, together, to correct the issues. 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. Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.
I’m also learning that people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop. As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or – worse – disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.
It’s been way too long, but we’re finally having conversations about fairness and justice. We all have to be more mindful about the way our words and actions affect others, and I’m glad the issues at our show were brought to my attention. I promise to do my part in continuing to push myself and everyone around me to learn and grow. It’s important to me and to Warner Bros. that everyone who has something to say can speak up and feels safe doing so.
I am so proud of the work we do and the fun and joy we all help put out in the world. I want everyone at home to love our show and I want everyone who makes it to love working on it. Again, I’m so sorry to anyone who didn’t have that experience. If not for COVID, I’d have done this in person, and I can’t wait to be back on our stage and see you all then.
Stay safe and healthy.