Ellen DeGeneres has returned to her talk show with an apology.
After sarcastically claiming she had a "great" summer, the lesbian talk show host addressed reports of harassment and racism that surfaced from staff members over the past several months.
"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 in a monologue on the show's season 18 premiere. "I learned that 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 that were affected."
"I know that I am in a position of privilege and power and with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show," DeGeneres added.
In July, WarnerMedia, which produces DeGeneres’s show, launched an internal investigation into allegations of a toxic workplace. Reports regarding the working conditions on DeGeneres’s show included a story early in the pandemic as filming ceased and eventually went virtual that at least 30 crew members had not been contacted for more than a month regarding the status of their pay or hours. The crew was restored to full pay, and producers blamed the lack of communication on confusion during the pandemic.
Additionally, a BuzzFeed story painted a damning picture of workplace culture on DeGeneres’s show. One of the numerous employees who spoke off the record was a Black woman who said she’d dealt with “racist comments, actions, and microagressions” during her tenure there. One former employee said they were fired for creating a GoFundMe page to cover medical costs the company wouldn’t, while others spoke of experiencing stress and depression related to the culture there.
At the time, blame for the environment at DeGeneres’s show fell on executive producers and senior management, but one former employee said that DeGeneres should be more involved, especially since her name is attached.
Executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner released a statement in response to the BuzzFeed report saying they take the allegations “very, very seriously.”
"Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1000 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,” they added.
In July, DeGeneres reportedly apologized in an email to staffers. On her show's premiere, she shared that she has "had a lot of conversations" about the show's future. "We have made the necessary changes and today we are starting a new chapter," she promised.
"Being known as the 'be kind' lady is a tricky position to be in," said DeGeneres, addressing criticisms of hypocrisy to her "nice" brand. "So let me give you some advice out there if anybody's thinking of changing their title or giving yourself a nickname, do not go with the 'be kind' lady. Don't do it. The truth is I am that person that you see on TV."