Former 'Ellen Show' Employees Claim 3 Execs Engaged in Sexual Misconduct and Harassment: Report
By Paige Gawley
Former Ellen DeGeneres Showemployees are leveling new accusations against the daytime talk show. In a new report by BuzzFeed, "dozens of men and women" who worked on Ellen claim that sexual harassment and misconduct "run rampant" at the office. ET has reached out to the show for comment.
In the report, specific allegations are against Kevin Leman, an executive producer and the head writer on the show. Three separate claims involve Leman allegedly asking an ex-employee for a hand job or to perform oral sex at a 2013 company party, witnessing him grabbing a production assistant's penis, and seeing him groping a production assistant in a car in 2017.
According to the outlet, nearly a dozen former employees -- who range from production assistants to senior-level -- claim that it was "common for Leman to make sexually explicit comments in the office."
"He’d probably do it in front of 10 people and they’d laugh because 'it’s just Kevin being Kevin,' but if you’re in a position of power at a company, you don’t just get to touch me like that," a former employee tells the outlet.
Leman denied the accusations in a statement to the outlet.
"I started at the Ellen Show as a PA more than 17 years ago and have devoted my career to work my way to the position I now hold. While my job as head writer is to come up with jokes -- and, during that process, we can occasionally push the envelope -- I’m horrified that some of my attempts at humor may have caused offense," he says. "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."
Executive producer Ed Glavin also faces accusations in the report, with five former employees telling the outlet that Glavin "touched them in a way that made them uncomfortable." Dozens of others claim Glavin "had a reputation for being handsy with women."
"You could definitely see the creep factor and the creepy touching. That was out in the open for everybody to see," one former employee tells the outlet. "Obviously, no one wants that and no one wants to be uncomfortably touched by someone… but you didn’t want to piss them off or you would be fired, so it was just that culture of fear."
Forty-seven former employees claim to the outlet that Glavin "led with intimidation and fear," with five ex-employees alleging that he did so in part by using a button at his desk to shut his office door.
Glavin did not respond to the allegations in BuzzFeed's report. However, in a previous joint statement for the website's initial report that The Ellen DeGeneres Show was a "toxic" place to work, Glavin, along with other producers, said the show has "strived to create an open, safe, and inclusive work environment."
"We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience," the statement to ET said in part. "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," the statement continued. "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."
In the most recent BuzzFeed exposé, one former employee also alleges that co-executive producer Jonathan Norman attempted to perform oral sex on him after taking him to concerts and other events. Three of his then-colleagues said they were told of the incident at the time.
"We’re young people who were forming our careers and were unfortunately subjected to a toxic work environment as some of our first jobs out of college," the former employee tells the outlet. "And some of us were sexually harassed and that’s what was shaping our careers our first year out of school."
Norman denied the allegation in a statement to the outlet.
"I have never had a single complaint against me in my career. I have never 'groomed' anyone," he says. "I have never done anything to harm another staff member. Ever. The person I believe you are referring to has ulterior motives for bringing down the show and has been acting with malice towards the show."
Former employees also claim that there was no way to file confidential complaints at the show, and allege that they were discouraged from speaking to human resources at the show's parent company.
Warner Bros. has since launched an internal investigation, telling ET in a statement that they "take the recent allegations around the show’s workplace culture very seriously."
"We have identified several staffing changes, along with appropriate measures to address the issues that have been raised, and are taking the first steps to implement them," the statement read in part. "Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres are all committed to ensuring a workplace based on respect and inclusion. We are confident this course of action will lead us to the right way forward for the show."
Some ex-employees claim to the outlet that the host herself was likely unaware of the scope of the alleged incidents.
"Everyone acted really differently around her," one former employee tells BuzzFeed. "There’s a show that’s happening behind the show, the show that the executive producers have us all put on for her when she comes to the offices."
Others, however, express doubt to the outlet about DeGeneres' lack of knowledge.
"For someone who’s so involved in the show and the creative aspect, and having been in those meetings with her, it’s very hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that she doesn’t hear the same whispers," one former employee tells the outlet. "Unless she really is just in this bubble."
"She knows," another ex-employee claims. "She knows s**t goes on, but also she doesn’t want to hear it."
Though DeGeneres has yet to comment on specific allegations in the most recent BuzzFeed report, in a letter to staff earlier this week, she addressed allegations that the show is a "toxic" work environment.
"I could not have the success I’ve had without all of your contributions. My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that... 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," she wrote in part. "That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again."
"... It’s been way too long, but we’re finally having conversations about fairness and justice. We all have to be more mindful about the way our words and actions affect others," she continued. "... I promise to do my part in continuing to push myself and everyone around me to learn and grow. It’s important to me and to Warner Bros. that everyone who has something to say can speak up and feels safe doing so."
In response to DeGeneres' statement, record executive Scooter Braun took to Twitter to defend the host.
"People love to take shots at people. They love to see people fall. How quickly so many forget. @TheEllenShow is a kind, thoughtful, courageous human being who stands for what is right and highlights on her show the best of us. She has helped change the views for equality," he wrote. "Needed to say this as I know first hand how she helps so many when we are watching and when we are not. She isn’t about what is popular she is about what is right. Sending love to Ellen today."
Needed to say this as I know first hand how she helps so many when we are watching and when we are not. She isn’t about what is popular she is about what is right. Sending love to Ellen today.