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Ellen DeGeneres Apologizes to Staff in Letter

Talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres is under fire for allowing toxic culture at the show that bears her name.
Talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres is under fire for allowing toxic culture at the show that bears her name. (Image credit: Warner Bros./The Ellen DeGeneres Show)

After months of silence in April about a toxic workplace at her eponymous talk show, Ellen DeGeneres on Thursday sent a letter to her staff apologizing for what has gone on and promising to do better. 

“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,” she wrote.

Related: WarnerMedia Conducting Investigation Into 'Ellen' Workplace

The letter further confirms Tuesday’s news that Warner Bros., along with the show, has conducted an internal investigation into the show’s culture. 

“I could not have the success I’ve had without all of your contributions,” the comedian and talk-show host wrote. “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.”

Warner Bros. also confirmed that an investigation had taken place and found that some staffing changes needed to be made, the company said in a statement.

“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.”

As a result, Executive Producer Ed Glavin -- who shares duties with Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner -- will be departing, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In the letter, DeGeneres also addressed some of the behind-the-scenes leaking that has been going on.

“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.”

News started leaking out that all was not well at The Ellen DeGeneres Show in April when Variety posted a story reporting that “crew members … are distressed and outraged over their treatment from top producers amid the coronavirus pandemic.” This included crew members being upset that outside firms were being brought in to set up DeGeneres' home for remote production. 

That was followed up in July by a story in BuzzFeed, in which one current and 10 former employees -- all of them wishing to remain anonymous -- complained about the way they were treated while working at the show. Several said they were fired after taking time off to attend funerals or deal with health problems while a black woman said she experienced discrimination and racist comments from her higher-ups and peers. 

At the time, the show’s executive producers gave BuzzFeed a statement that read: 

"Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1,000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe, and inclusive work environment," they said. "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.

"For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better."

DeGeneres’ full letter is below: 

Hey everybody – it’s Ellen. On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness – no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.

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.

Love, 

Ellen