Ellen DeGeneres immediately took on the allegations of a toxic workplace environment on her show’s return Monday, its 18th season premiere, saying the show is embarking “on a new chapter.”
“As you may have heard, this summer there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show, and then there was an investigation,” a solemn DeGeneres told a “virtual” audience, as the show returned to filming in-studio amid the coronavirus pandemic. “I learned things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected.”
Her comments were the first she has made on-screen since allegations arose over the summer in a Buzzfeed article detailing claims of racist comments and other abusive behavior from former and current show staff. The allegations led to a WarnerMedia investigation, the ousting of three senior producers and the implementing of changes in how the program is run. At the time she sent an emotional letter of apology to her staff.
“We have had a lot of conversations over the last few weeks about our show, our workplace, and what we want for the future. We have made the necessary changes and today we are starting a new chapter,” DeGeneres said.
“I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility. And I take responsibility for what happens on my show,” DeGeneres added.
DeGeneres also addressed reports that she’s been unkind to her housekeeping staff and restaurant workers, unlike her benevolent TV persona.
She noted that she began signing with the message “be kind” after college student Tyler Clementi committed suicide in 2010 after his roommate filmed a “private encounter” with him and another man in their dorm room.
“It was a reminder that we all needed that, and I think we need it more than ever right now,” DeGeneres said.
“The truth is, I am that person you see on TV,” DeGeneres said, calling herself “a work in progress.”
“All I want is for every single one of [my 270 employees] to be happy and to be proud to work here,” she added. She then addressed the difficult situation the world is currently in.
“This has been a horrible summer for people all over the world. People are losing their jobs. People are losing loved ones to a pandemic. People are losing their homes and lives in raging fires that are going on. There’s blatant racial injustice all around us. I watch the news and I feel like, where do we even begin,” she said. “So my hope is that we can still be a place of happiness and joy. I still want to be the one hour a day that people can go to escape and laugh. I want to continue to help all of the people that we help every day, and I am committed to making this the best season that we have ever had.”
You can watch her entire monologue above.
The Ellen season premiere was taped last Wednesday. DeGeneres’ wife, Portia de Rossi, was with her on set. According to sources, DeGeneres was applauded by crew that were present when she came off stage.
Following her all-staff Zoom following the end of the investigation, DeGeneres has been holding Zoom meetings with smaller groups of her staff.