By now, you’ve surely heard that The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the Emmy award-winning talk-variety series that launched in 2003, is sitting at a crossroads. This is the result of more than a few controversies over the last couple of years, which have culminated with employees stepping up to accuse Ellen of allowing a toxic workplace environment to flourish. As a result the host — who has preached a “Be Kind” mantra as part of the show’s image — is on the defense as accusations continue to swirl. A handful of celebrity supporters have rallied on her side as others call for her replacement.
Should we really be surprised by the downfall of Ellen’s image? This shift didn’t happen overnight, and even if it feels like revelations are coming fast and furious now, Ellen dropped a few hints of her own along the way. Let’s hammer this out, timeline style.
December 4, 2018
In a trailer for her Netflix stand-up special, Relatable, Ellen complained about how she’s unable to do anything that’s considered even mildly rude, like honk her car horn, due to her ultra-nice reputation as the reigning queen of daytime talk TV. This assertion does seem somewhat relatable, given that people apparently expect her to dance with them on the street during fan encounters.
December 12, 2018
During a lengthy profile with The New York Times, Ellen strongly suggested that she’s considering leaving the building and canceling her show within a few years. She admitted wanting to pursue projects that explore more of her own personality or portray “someone unappealing” on a TV show or movie. Ellen also pointedly stated, “The talk show is me, but I’m also playing a character of a talk-show host. There’s a tiny, tiny bit of difference.” Within the profile, Ellen’s wife, Portia de Rossi, signaled that she was ready for her spouse to move onto other challenges.
January 4, 2019
Ellen — who remains one of the most prominent gay celebrities in the U.S. — stirred up controversy by urging Kevin Hart to return as Oscars host following his “choice” to step down after the resurfacing of his homophobic tweets (including calling a Twitter user’s profile picture “a gay billboard for AIDS”). In making this call, Ellen pushed back at the “haters” and described Hart as “one of the smartest people I know.”
May 21, 2019
Despite making those public noises about wanting to move past her talk show, Ellen re-upped her contract for three more years to keep the show going until 2022. While addressing her audience, she joked that this happened “[m]ostly because I love doing it so much every day but also because that takes me to the end of my car lease.”
October 7, 2019
Amid a backlash over being spotted laughing during a Dallas Cowboys game with former President George W. Bush (whose anti-LGBTQ stance included his staunch support for the Defense of Marriage Act), the talk show host defended their friendship in a monologue. In doing so, she argued that “we’re all different,” and just because she differs in viewpoint from Bush, that doesn’t mean they can’t be buds. “When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do,” she argued. “I mean be kind to everyone.”
March 20, 2020
On Twitter, comedian Kevin Porter called Ellen “notoriously one of the meanest people alive” while engaging in some wordplay about how “we all need a little kindness.” He encouraged people to share “insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean” in exchange for his donations to the LA Food Bank. Porter has received thousands of responses to his tweet, and at $2 per pop, that adds up to a huge donation.
Right now we all need a little kindness. You know, like Ellen Degeneres always talks about! 😊❤️
She’s also notoriously one of the meanest people alive
Respond to this with the most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean & I’ll match every one w/ $2 to @LAFoodBank
— Kevin T. Porter (@KevinTPorter) March 20, 2020
April 8, 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic took root in the U.S., Ellen received criticism after likening her self-isolation experience (from within her scenic and luxurious multimillion-dollar compound) to being incarcerated. “This is like being in jail, is what it is,” DeGeneres told her audience during a home-filmed episode of her show. “It’s mostly because I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 10 days and everyone in here is gay.”
April 20, 2020
Variety reported that Ellen’s staff was furious over her lack of communication during the pandemic. Sources told the trade publication that they received no written alerts about their working hours or pay while the show hired an outside company to help her film remotely at home. After weeks of attempted contact, crew members say that executives told them to expect pay cuts of 60% despite the show continuing to air. In a statement, Warner Bros. TV tells Variety that, while communication could have been better, “the crew has been paid consistently, though at reduced hours.”
July 16, 2020
Buzzfeed published an investigative report that contains several stories from former The Ellen DeGeneres Show employees, who allege that her “be kind” slogan is all “for show.” The accusers claimed that they experienced intimidation tactics, racist comments, and microaggressions from producers (particularly executive producer Ed Glavin) on Ellen’s show. The Glavin accusations have led to him being released from his position.
July 30, 2020
Ellen responded to the above allegations with an apologetic statement about claims of show’s “toxic” workplace. “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.” DeGeneres insisted. “Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that I am sorry.”
July 31, 2020
Brad Garrett publicly declared that he’s not buying Ellen’s apology. He stepped up to claim that he knew multiple people who “were treated horribly by her,” and he pushed for further accountability while stating that toxicity “comes from the top.”
August 3, 2020
A former The Ellen Show producer, Hedda Muskat, went public about her experiences working on the show. While speaking with The Wrap, Muskat accused Ellen of fostering a “culture of fear.” She further alleges that when Ed Glavin screamed at a crew member during a staff meeting, Ellen simply giggled and responded, ‘Well, I guess every production needs their dog.”
August 4, 2020
As unverified rumors of Ellen possibly being replaced (maybe by James Corden?) swirled, comedian Eric declared his support for a petition to give him the hosting gig. And yes, Andre tweeted some photoshopped nightmare fuel to get that ball rolling further down the hill.
Following the recent revelations, celebrities have begun to rally around Ellen in support.
Portia de Rossi Instagrammed an “I Stand By Ellen” image while seemingly blaming “bots” for some of the backlash against her wife.
Kevin Hart hopped aboard, presumably by returning a favor for her support of him during the Oscar kerfuffle. “I have known Ellen for years and I can honestly say that she’s one of the dopest people on the f*cking planet,” he attested. “She has treated my family and team with love and respect from day 1.”
Katy Perry stepped up to praise Ellen for “the light & continual fight for equality that she has brought to the world through her platform for decades.”
1/2 I know I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience besides my own but I want to acknowledge that I have only ever had positive takeaways from my time with Ellen & on the @theellenshow. I think we all have witnessed the light & continual fight for equality that she has brought
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) August 4, 2020
Ashton Kutcher rallied as part of the Ellen Support Club while asserting that “She & her team have only treated me & my team w/ respect & kindness… When things aren’t right she handles it and fixes.”
I haven’t spoken with @TheEllenShow and can only speak from my own experience. She & her team have only treated me & my team w/ respect & kindness. She never pandered to celebrity which I always saw as a refreshing honesty. When things aren’t right she handles it and fixes.
— ashton kutcher (@aplusk) August 5, 2020
And Diane Keaton, who probably won’t be the last to join, added how Ellen “GIVES BACK TO SO MANY INCLUDING ME.”