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Ellen DeGeneres makes on-air apology after allegations of toxic workplace

Ellen DeGeneres addressed reports of a toxic

 Ellen DeGeneres addressed reports of a toxic workplace environment on the season opener of her daytime talk show on Monday. Credit: Invision / AP / Chris Pizzello

Daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres debuted her 18th season Monday, addressing the toxic-workplace controversy that had roiled the program over the summer and led to the exits of three executive producers.

"Today we're starting a new chapter," DeGeneres, 62, wrote on social media, posting video of her opening monologue. In the clip, shot at her studio set in Burbank, California, she tells a remote audience of massive heads on vertical video screens that, "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. I take that very seriously and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected."

DeGeneres, whose $80.5 million earned in 2019 ranked her fourth on Forbes magazine's most recent list of highest-paid TV hosts, went on to say, "I know that I am 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. … We have had a lot of conversations over the last few weeks about the show, our workplace, and what we want for the future. We have made the necessary changes, and today we are starting a new chapter."

Turning to "articles in the press and on social media that said that I am not who I appear to be on TV, because I became known as 'the be-kind lady,' " DeGeneres explained the label originated with her pleading for people to "be kind to one another" after Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi committed suicide in 2010 following anti-gay bullying.

"Being known as 'the be-kind lady' is a tricky position to be in," she said, adding, "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 again apologized to her syndicated show's 270 employees, some of whom, as documented in a July BuzzFeed News article, had faced hostile and capricious managers, racist undercurrents, termination after taking time off for medical or bereavement reasons, and being forbidden to speak with DeGeneres herself. "If I've ever let someone down, if I've ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that," she said.

DeGeneres previously had apologized in a letter to staffers, telling them in late July, "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."

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