Ellen DeGeneres has responded to allegations of racism and toxicity at “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” first reported by BuzzFeed News. Just hours after DeGeneres responded to the allegations, a second BuzzFeed News article, alleging allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace, was published.
In an article published on July 16, BuzzFeed News spoke to one current and 10 former employees of the show, who claimed they faced “racism, fear, and intimidation,” in the workplace.
After facing scrutiny following the publication of the article, DeGeneres wrote a letter to her staff, which was obtained by CBS News on Thursday. In the letter, DeGeneres said she had hoped the show would be a “place of happiness” where everyone would be “treated with respect” and was “disappointed to learn” that this “has not been the case.”
She also said the show was taking steps to “correct the issues”. Warner Media, the distributor of the show, is also investigating the allegations, CBS News’ Jamie Yuccas reports.
In a statement to CBS News, Warner Bros. said they had conducted an internal investigation and that “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.” Warner Bros. said they had made several staffing changes “along with appropriate measures to address the issues that have been raised, and are taking the first steps to implement them.”
Just hours after DeGeneres responded to BuzzFeed News’ first report, a second was published. In the article published on July 30, BuzzFeed News said it had spoken to “dozens of men and women who work behind the scenes” at the show, who alleged sexual harassment and misconduct by top executive producers runs rampant at the office.
Krystie Yandoli, the BuzzFeed News entertainment reporter who wrote both of the articles, told CBS This Morning on Friday that she had spoken to nearly 50 former employees who worked on “The Ellen Show.”
“All of them say they found what their experience was behind the scenes to be in contrast to what the show makes a profit off of. And what Ellen DeGeneres has built an entire brand off, of which is the ‘be kind’ message,” Yandoli said.
Some former employees suggested to BuzzFeed News that DeGeneres should take more responsibility for the environment. “They want to see a change in Ellen’s workplace environment and in TV work environments in general,” Yandoli said.
In its first report, BuzzFeed News wrote that most of the former employees blamed executive producers and other senior managers for what they described as the day-to-day toxicity.
One former employee, a Black woman, told BuzzFeed News that she experienced racist comments, actions and “microaggressions.” One employee said she was fed up with comments about her race, so she essentially “walked off the job.” Other former employees said they were fired unexpectedly after needing to take medical leaves and bereavement days.
Executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner responded to the allegations in the first report with a joint statement to BuzzFeed, saying they take the stories of the employees “very seriously.”
In a statement to CBS News, executive producer Kevin Leman said the BuzzFeed News article is “filled with false claims.” He said he “categorically” denies “any kind of sexual impropriety.” He said that part of his job as head writer is to come up with jokes, and he is “horrified” that some of his attempts to write jokes may have caused offense.
“I have always aimed to treat everyone on the staff with kindness, inclusivity and respect. In my whole time on the show, to my knowledge, I’ve never had a single HR or inter-personal complaint made about me, and I am devastated beyond belief that this kind of malicious and misleading article could be published,” Leman said.
Several sexual misconduct allegations, ranging from inappropriate touching to sexually explicit comments, were made against Leman in the BuzzFeed News article.
In the second BuzzFeed report, specific allegations were made against Glavin, executive producer Kevin Leman and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman.
Five former employees said Glavin touched them in a way that made them uncomfortable and dozens of other former employees also said he “had a reputation for being handsy with women,” BuzzFeed News reports.
BuzzFeed News also reports that five former employees said Glavin had a button at his desk that remotely shut his office door, which he used “as an intimidation tactic” during reprimands.
Another former employee said Norman “groomed” him by taking him to concerts and other work-related perks. He then attempted to perform oral sex on him, the former employee told BuzzFeed News.
Leman and Norman both denied the allegations in statements to BuzzFeed News. The publication said Glavin did not respond to a request for comment.
CBS News has reached out to Glavin and Norman with a request for comment and is awaiting response.