Ellen DeGeneres Addresses Toxic Workplace Allegations During Season 18 Premiere

Ellen DeGeneres
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

Allegations of 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' having a 'toxic' work environment came to light this summer.

Ellen DeGeneres is speaking out following allegations that her show has a "toxic" work environment. During the season 18 premiere of The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Monday, the 62-year-old host speaks about her "horrible summer" and takes "responsibility" for everything that goes on at her talk show.

"If you're watching because you love me, thank you. If you're watching because you don't love me, welcome! How was everybody's summer? Good? Mine was great. Super terrific!" she says sarcastically. "I'm so happy to be back in the studio. There are a lot of things I want to talk about. I've been looking forward to addressing it all directly and, unfortunately, talking directly to people has been illegal for six months, so I have a virtual audience here instead." 

"As you may have heard, this summer there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show, and then there was an investigation. I learned that things happened here that never should have happened," DeGeneres continues. "I take that very seriously and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I'm in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility and I take responsibility for what happens at my show. This is The Ellen DeGeneres Show, I am Ellen DeGeneres."

DeGeneres says she and her staff have "had a lot of conversations over the last few weeks about our show, our workplace, and what we want for the future," adding that "necessary changes" have been made and that "a new chapter" has begun. 

The host also addresses allegations that she isn't who she appears to be on television.

"I became known as the 'be kind lady.' Here's how that happened. I started saying 'be kind to one another' after a young man, Tyler Clementi, took his own life after being bullied for being gay," she says. "I thought the world needed more kindness, and it was a reminder that we all needed that. I think we need it more than ever right now. Being known as the 'be kind lady' is a tricky position to be in. 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. I am also a lot of other things. Sometimes I get sad, I get mad, I get anxious, I get frustrated, I get impatient, and I am working on all of that," she adds. "I am a work in progress. I am especially working on the impatience thing. It's not going well because it's not happening fast enough. I will tell you that."

DeGeneres continues, "I've played a straight woman in movies, so I'm a pretty good actress. But I don't think I'm that good that I could come out here every day for 17 years and fool you."

"This is me. And my intention is to always be the best person I can be," she says. "And if I've ever let someone down, if I ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that. If that's ever the case I have let myself down and I have hurt myself as well, because I always try to grow as a person. I look at everything that comes into my life as an opportunity to learn."

DeGeneres continues her speech by saying that she "got into this business to make people laugh and feel good."

"That's my favorite thing to do. That and Jenga. I love that game," she quips. "And now I am the boss of 270 people. Two-hundred and seventy people who help make this show what it is. Two-hundred and seventy people who I am so grateful for. All I want is for every single one of them to be happy and to be proud to work here."

The host also addresses the fact that this "has been a horrible summer for people all around the world."

"People are losing their jobs. People are losing loved ones to a pandemic. People are losing their homes and lives in raging fires that are going on. There's blatant racial injustice all around us. I watch the news and I feel like, 'Where do we even began?'" she says. "So my hope is that we can still be a place of happiness and joy. I still want to be the one hour a day that people can go to escape and laugh. I want to continue to help all of the people that we help every day. And I'm committed to making this the best season that we have ever had."

"Welcome to season 18 of The Ellen Show," she concludes. "I am so glad that you're here."

As ET previously reported, Warner Bros. Television sent an internal memo to staffers in July, informing them that WarnerMedia would be seeking the services of an independent third-party firm to interview current and former employees about their experiences behind the scenes on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, after one current and 10 former employees anonymously spoke with BuzzFeed News about their negative experiences working on the program.

In an internal letter sent to show staff that month, which was obtained by ET, DeGeneres apologized and affirmed that she was committed to "having conversations about fairness and justice." During the first day back for production on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in August, ET also learned that a staff meeting was called, where DeGeneres surprised everyone by appearing for the virtual conference call. The comedian said she was devastated to learn some of the allegations and stories that have come out, including that she does not look people in the eye and that she does not address people. DeGeneres said that was not who she is, and apologized if anyone ever felt that she did not pay attention to them. She asked staff to please talk to her and to look at her, and that all these reports hurt her and she was sorry people felt that way.

ET later learned that ahead of the show's Sept. 14 premiere, the show implemented new perks for staff amid WarnerMedia's workplace investigation. An insider told ET that the new benefits -- which include increased paid time off and a liberal medical leave policy -- as well as DeGeneres' address to staffers, have been a morale booster.

A spokesperson for Warner Bros. also confirmed to ET that following the workplace allegations, executive producers Ed Glavin and Kevin Leman and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman left the show, while the program's resident DJ, Stephen "tWitch" Boss, was promoted to co-executive producer.  

In late August, paparazzi caught up with DeGeneres in Santa Barbara, California, and she insisted that conversations will be had amid The Ellen DeGeneres Show's recent producer shakeup.

"I will be talking to my fans," she said in the video, obtained by Daily Mail.

Since the scandal, a number of celebrities have shown their support for DeGeneres, including Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Hart, Sofia Vergara, Jerry O'Connell and more.  ET spoke with tWitch, now a co-executive producer of the how, in June, and the beloved DJ had nothing but great things to say about DeGeneres.

"Ellen is obviously, like, you know, she promotes kindness but she is quite literally kind," he said. "Incredibly generous, but also like, still down -- and I'm not saying down-to-earth like the cliché, 'Oh, she's so, like, grounded.' No, but as in a real person, like, when the cameras go off and things like that."

"She's up in a high place and people love to take cracks when they got time, but it's just like, I don't say nothin' to them," he added about those questioning her character. "I know my experiences. I have personally seen all the love she puts in the world, so, it's just like, people just got time, you know? People got time."

For more on the show shakeups, watch the video below.