Ellen DeGeneres has long been one of the most recognisable, familiar and beloved figures on television in the US.
Starting as an actor on her sitcom Ellen in the early 1990s, she also became known for publicly coming out as gay on the Oprah Winfrey show and then via a Time magazine front cover which, at the time, was a rare and impressive move. Now she is at the helm of a media empire, with the central focus being a weekday chat show that welcomes A-List guests from Leonardo DiCaprio to Kim Kardashian West - many of whom are DeGeneres' close friends. At this year's Golden Globes she was presented with the Carol Burnett lifetime achievement award and in 2016, Barack Obama awarded the 62-year-old with the presidential medal of freedom.
Frequently touted as an LGBTQ+ icon, aspirational woman in media, an outspoken activist and someone who has largely built a reputation on the concept of kindness (with regular features of her show including audience giveaways and hefty charitable donations), the recent headlines surrounding DeGeneres have sent shockwaves across the world.
There has been a lot of confusion as to what has actually happened though. And also, who is involved and what the allegations really are.
Here's what you need to know:
What are the accusations against Ellen DeGeneres?
A July Buzzfeed report cited several sources who claimed they had suffered sexual harassment, racism and bullying on the set of The Ellen DeGeneres show, labelling it a 'toxic work environment'.
Among the allegations, one former Black employee claimed they suffered microaggresions and disrespectful comments, while other employees said they were fired for taking sick leave - including for serious mental health conditions - and attending family funerals. One also claimed they were instructed not to speak to DeGeneres if they encountered her during production.
While the accusations were largely levied against the executive producers rather than DeGeneres herself, she was criticised in the article for failing to take accountability for the negative climate on set and addressing injustices.
'If she wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what's going on,' a former employee told the outlet. 'I think the executive producers surround her and tell her, "Things are going great, everybody's happy," and she just believes that, but it's her responsibility to go beyond that.'
Last week, Buzzfeed published a further article where sexual harassment and misconduct allegations were made against several producers on the show. All those accused vehemently deny the claims.
Prior to the most recent articles, in April Variety reported how several members of the crew were furious over the lack of communication about their jobs and pay as the show moved to a remote way of working due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
How has Ellen DeGeneres responded to the accusations?
The official line from the three executive producers to Buzzfeed was that they were 'heartbroken and sorry' to learn about the allegations of a toxic workplace and defended DeGeneres from the accusations, saying 'For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us.'
Days after the report, DeGeneres sent an internal email to those working on the show, which was later published on The Hollywood Reporter.
The star said she has always aimed for her show to be a 'place of happiness', but that 'obviously something has changed' in the 17 years since she made that vow on the show's first episode.
'As we've grown exponentially, I've not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I'd want them done. Clearly some didn't. That will now change and I'm committed to ensuring this does not happen again,' the host wrote.
Sine the reports, Warner Bros has began an internal investigation into the allegations and working culture.
Update 18/8/20: The Ellen Show Parts Ways With Three Producers
Three of the show's top producers, Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman and Jonathan Norman, have left the show amid a Warner Bros investigation, according to Variety.
DeGeneres reportedly hosted a virtual Zoom meeting with the show's staff members this week where she announced the show's changes (including promoting the show's DJ Stephen 'tWitch' Boss to executive producer) and emotionally apologised again for 'letting the ball drop' behind the scenes.
'I feel like I’ve kind of let the ball drop a bit because I’m focused on the show, I go in and I do the show, and I’ve just let everybody to do their jobs – to run different departments. And it just became a well-oiled machine, and I think that is the problem. It’s not a machine. This is people. These are human beings that are working hard every single day to put this together. This show would not be what it is without all of you,' the host allegedly said according to The Hollywood Reporter.
DeGeneres also commented on the 'crazy' allegations that she was distant and unapproachable on set, explaining she was an introvert who liked her own space, the publisher said.
The internal investigation's initial results also allegedly found no evidence of systemic racism but committed to increasing diversity and representation across the show.
What have celebrity guests and friends of Ellen said about the reports?
Since the reports, many have aired their views on the high-profile reports including those close to DeGeneres.
On Tuesday (August 3), the host's wife Portia de Rossi broke her silence taking to Instagram to thank fans for their support.
Katy Perry, Kevin Hart, Diane Keaton, Ashton Kutcher and polo player Nacho Figueras have also voiced support for their friend, with Perry saying: 'I think we all have witnessed the light and 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
However, others have offered some criticism.
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
The show's former DJ Tony Okungbowa took to Twitter this week to say he was grateful for the opportunities afforded to him, but claimed he too had witnessed 'toxic culture', supporting his former colleagues including those that have spoken out.
While I am grateful for the opportunity it afforded me, I did experience and feel the toxicity of the environment and I stand with my former colleagues in their quest to create a healthier and more inclusive workplace as the show moves forward.— Tony Okungbowa (@TONYOK) August 4, 2020
Brad Garrett, an American actor best known for his role in the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, also waded in to the row following reports, claiming that this type of behaviour 'comes from the top'. 'Know more than one who were treated horribly by her. Common knowledge,' he alleged, which suggests that there are some who feel Ellen herself is to blame.
What is happening now?
Apart from her internal letter to staff, DeGeneres has not responded to the reports and the Warner Bros internal investigation is still ongoing. In recent days, there have been rumours that DeGeneres will be replaced on the show with suggested candidates including James Corden, but there is little evidence to support this.
We will continue to keep this explainer updated.
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