Two weeks after a news report painted a scathing picture of a toxic workplace environment at "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," the namesake daytime talk-show host has formulated a response.
In a recent letter from DeGeneres to staff, first obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, the star said, "On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that [the program] would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry."
She said in the more than 400-word letter that with the show, which debuted in 2003, having "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."
DeGeneres, 62, added, "I'm glad the issues at our show were brought to my attention. 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." — he show's production company, through its Telepictures subsidiary — "that everyone who has something to say can speak up and feels safe doing so."
Calling herself "proud of the work we do and the fun and joy we all help put out in the world," DeGeneres said she wanted the staff of her show "to love working on it. Again, I'm so sorry to anyone who didn't have that experience."
A July 16 article in BuzzFeed News, based on interviews with one current and 10 former employees of the show, described an environment of fear, retribution and racist undercurrents, all at odds with DeGeneres' reputation for niceness. The anonymous staffers said some employees were terminated after taking time off for medical or bereavement reasons, issues could not be brought up to hostile and capricious managers, and that staffers were forbidden to speak with DeGeneres herself.
While the star is one of TV's highest-paid — earning an estimated annual $80.5 million, per Forbes magazine's most recent list of top-earning TV and radio hosts — one former employee said that over concerns about DeGeneres' image, the employee was ordered to end a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for medical costs not covered by the company health insurance.
In a statement Thursday to Newsday, Warner Bros. TV said in part that an investigation by parent company WarnerMedia and an outside firm last week had "hoped to determine the validity and extent of publicly reported allegations and to understand the full breadth of the show's day-to-day culture. As a result, WarnerMedia interviewed dozens of current and former employees about the environment at 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show.' … And 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."
WBTV went on to say, "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." Multiple trade magazines on Thursday said Ed Glavin, one of the executive producers, was expected to leave the show.
As early as 2018, DeGeneres dismissed accusations of a negative work environment, telling The New York Times in language similar to the recent letter, "The first day I said: 'The one thing I want is everyone here to be happy and proud of where they work, and if not, don't work here.' No one is going to raise their voice or not be grateful. That's the rule to this day."
A spokeswoman for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" did not respond to a Newsday request for comment, and DeGeneres has not commented on social media.