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Ellen DeGeneres apologises for 'toxic work environment' on her chat show

The Guardian logo The Guardian 21/09/2020 Hannah J Davies
Ellen DeGeneres looking at the camera: Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Ellen DeGeneres has issued an apology to viewers following allegations of misconduct on the set of her eponymous talk show. The American comic and presenter, who has hosted The Ellen DeGeneres Show since 2003, addressed her audience on YouTube with a monologue ahead of the programme’s 18th series, stating that “things happened here that should never have happened”.

Her comments came after former employees of the programme alleged racial insensitivity and bullying on the set of the hit series, and alleged sexual misconduct between executives and lower-level employees. They also alleged that the host’s “be kind” motto was not genuine. In response to the claims, DeGeneres was defended by Ashton Kutcher, Jay Leno and Katy Perry.

“As you may have heard this summer there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show, and then there was an investigation,” DeGeneres said. “I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously, and I want to say I’m so sorry to the people who were affected. 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.”


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DeGeneres added that the production team had had “a lot of conversations over the last few weeks about the show, our workplace and what we want for the future. We have made the necessary changes and today we are starting a new chapter”. Addressing allegations of rude behaviour towards herself, DeGeneres said that “being known as the ‘be kind’ lady is a tricky position to be in … the truth is, I am that person you see on TV but I’m also a lot of things … I’m a work-in-progress.”

Ellen DeGeneres posing for the camera: ‘So sorry’ … Ellen DeGeneres at the Golden Globes in January. © Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP ‘So sorry’ … Ellen DeGeneres at the Golden Globes in January.

DeGeneres said: “My intention is to always be the best person I can be, and if I’ve ever let someone down, if I’ve ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that. If that’s ever the case, I’ve let myself down and I’ve hurt myself as well.”

DeGeneres, who came out as a lesbian in 1997, added that her “be kind” philosophy had been inspired by the death of Tyler Clementi, a gay teenager who was outed online in 2010 and killed himself. She also said that she wanted the show to be a place of “happiness and joy” for audiences.

The allegations about the programme and DeGeneres were first published by Buzzfeed in July, based on interviews with 36 former staffers. Three top producers left the show last month following an internal investigation by makers Warner Bros, which found “some flaws in the show’s daily management”. The studio added that it was “disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management”.

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