Ellen DeGeneres received threats of violence when she came out along with her sitcom character in 1997, including a bomb threat to the studio where the show taped.
“When I came out, I had death threats and there was a bomb threat, but they misjudged the time of the taping,” DeGeneres revealed in a new interview with Adweek. “We had already finished, and thank God.”
The actress, comedian, and talk show host brought up the subject in response to a question about how she deals with negativity on social media platforms, which were nonexistent at the time of her coming-out.
Of social media, she said, “I try not to read. But I have to pay attention just a little bit, because I want feedback. When you’re getting slammed by someone on your Twitter page or Instagram, you’re like, why are you following me if you hate me? And then I realized, well, they just do it because there’s so much anger in them. I don’t understand it. I don’t take it personally.”
She also said she thought her coming-out would make more of a difference at the time than it did. When Adweek’s interviewer told her it was important to other people who were coming out, she said, “I hear that a lot — that it started a conversation. It’s definitely something I know helped a lot of people, and I was hoping it would help more people. Right after I came out, Matthew Shepard was killed, and it just devastated me. I just thought, ‘This is going to make a difference.’ The ignorance of me to think that I would make that much of a difference … It just broke my heart.” (Shepard’s murder occurred the following year.)
DeGeneres graces the cover of Adweek’s latest print edition as the recipient of its Media Visionary Award. The magazine notes her many achievements since she bounced back from the cancellation of her first sitcom, including her wildly popular talk show, her digital network, and the stand-up comedy special she will have on Netflix in December — her first such special in over a decade.
Adweek brought up her willingness to deal with serious issues on her talk show, such as gun control and sexual violence. “I hope people understand it’s not even a political thing,” DeGeneres said. “It’s just about what kind of character the person has. I demand if somebody is stepping over the line [for them to be] a decent, honest human being.”
Unlike some other outspoken celebrities, she has not incurred the wrath of Donald Trump. “I don’t go after him, but if he does something that is kind of like ‘What are you talking about?,’ I’m going to say something,” she told Adweek. But she tries not to give him more attention that he deserves, she added. “Let him do what he does, and let’s try to push light into the world,” DeGeneres concluded.