The employees of 'The Ellen DeGeneres show' accuse top producers of creating 'toxic environment.' - photo courtesy of TV Blackbox

“Be kind.”

Ellen DeGeneres’ motto that is plastered on the show’s merchandise such as hoodies, hats and even a subscription box has begun to fall flat after recent allegations of a toxic workplace environment and harassment by top producers of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” have come to light.

In July, BuzzFeed posted an article concerning multiple ex-employees of the show who claimed to have been sexually harassed by executive producers Ed Glavin and Kevin Leman and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman.

The bomb dropped by BuzzFeed led to Warner Bros., the distributor of the show, to “part ways” with the three producers. It also created an aftershock of claims by other former employees about the workplace culture of the show, which is said to be full of “racism, fear, and intimidation.”

Employees said that in one specific instance in the control room of the show, Glavin was especially touchy with women. Allegedly there was a fear of turning away the producer’s advances, for making him mad and potentially getting fired was worse than being uncomfortable. Some employees were fired from the production after taking medical leaves or days off to attend family funerals. One employee got up and left the set after becoming fed up with constant comments about their race. 

Most of the toxicity coming from DeGeneres’ show was said to have come from the producers and managers. But some claimed that the host, the woman who is heralded for her kindness and generosity, the one who is expected to intervene in this misconduct, sat in her dressing room with nary a clue as to her subordinates’ actions.

These revelations have led people to dig up past instances of DeGeneres’ rather blunt personality. In one interview with Mariah Carey, DeGeneres attempted to get Carey to reveal a rumored pregnancy by almost forcing her to drink champagne. Carey, who has a history of fertility issues, was uncomfortable with revealing the news, yet DeGeneres kept pestering the singer to reveal the pregnancy. Although she did not drink, Carey miscarried not long after the interview.

Another instance involved DeGeneres and a translator who had been present to translate for one of the guests on the show. The translator, relaying one of DeGeneres’ questions into Mandarin for the guest, was taking too long in getting the question across, and DeGeneres reprimanded her for it in front of the live audience and the viewers at home. The translator visibly recoiled and apologized.

There was even a claim that DeGeneres would not allow employees to talk to her and, sometimes, even make eye contact with her. DeGeneres however refuted these claims and said they were “crazy” and “not true.”

A former employee said they believed that most of the time the producers always told DeGeneres that things were running smoothly and staff were happy. But now, employees believe it is time for the namesake of the show to get more involved. 

DeGeneres spoke to 200 staffers via a video conference, addressing the allegations and apologizing for past behaviors. Warner Bros. began an internal interview process to get feedback from staff, and while evidence of systemic racism was not found on the show, everyone on the staff, including DeGeneres herself, will participate in diversity workshops.  

Remaining executive producers Andy Lassner, Mary Connelly and Derek Westervelt told the staff that “any culture of fear is done.” 

“Ellen” is set to return to daytime television Sept. 14. Only time will tell if the massive overhaul of the culture on the show has a lasting impact, or any impact at all. 

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