Can Ellen just keep swimming? The talk show host, Pixar voice actor, and comedian has enjoyed a reputation for kindness. But Ellen faces cancellation for, get this, being mean. And audiences honestly seem more outraged over that betrayal than by uglier possibilities, including allegations of sexual assault by her producers.
Now, false accusations get spread easily, especially once the media takes an interest. In Ellen’s case, the allegations are flying at her from all different directions.
We’re gonna break down four groups of Ellen’s main accusers: Fellow Celebrities, Anonymous Tips, Open Former Employees, and, get this, Ellen herself. Let’s break down these allegations from people who actually met Ellen, figure out the real story, and speculate on where she’s going. We might not be as kind as her persona, but we will endeavor to be fair. Huh. Maybe that should be her new catchphrase, if she stays on the air.
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4. Fellow Celebrities
Ellen famously brings figures ranging from Taylor Swift to Barack Obama on her show. But not all of them seem thrilled by what happened behind the scenes.
According to Fox, Dutch beauty blogger Nikkie de Jaeger wasn’t allowed to use a certain toilet backstage because it was reserved for the Jonas Brothers. And Ellen didn’t bother interacting with Nikkie before or after the show. An overworked intern greeted the guest, who only exchanged words with Ellen as the cameras rolled. This treatment would rub anyone the wrong way–why fly a guest out from the Netherlands, only to never bother saying hi?
And Nikkie’s not the only guest who received the silent treatment backstage. Radio host Neel Breen claims that her producers forbade him from talking or even looking at Ellen. They told him “You don’t talk to her, you don’t approach her, you don’t look at her. She’ll come in, she’ll sit down, she’ll talk to Richard, then Ellen will leave.” We gotta wonder, why all the rules? Is Ellen an ice cube that’ll melt if too many people open their mouths around her?
Now, is it possible that Nikkie and Neel exaggerated their experiences on the show? Maybe, but Nikkie doesn’t seem to have an agenda. She initially shared the story when prompted by a Dutch talk show host. And she graciously admitted the possibility that cultural differences were at work. If Nikkie only wanted to trash Ellen’s name, she could have done it on her own platform. Not to mention in English.
As for Neel, he said “I’m not blaming Ellen, because I didn’t get to talk to her, because I wasn’t allowed to. So I don’t know whether she’s a nice person or not.”
Despite the tactful phrasing, it’s a pretty damning statement about a talk show host. After all, audiences tune in for the supposed chemistry between Ellen and her celebrity guests. Why does she make so much money for talking to people if she apparently hates it?
Of course, fellow entertainers aren’t lobbing the heaviest accusations at Ellen. Buckle in to see what Ellen’s staff may think.
3. Anonymus Tips
Much of the controversy surrounding Ellen came from a Buzzfeed article that supposedly interviewed 36 former Ellen employees. Now, it’s worth mentioning that every single Buzzfeed accuser remained anonymous. In fact, the article remains vague about how many people even corroborated certain stories. We understand that in a cutthroat industry like TV, former employees risk their careers by speaking out. Unfortunately, that makes it impossible to verify the Buzzfeed story. That being said, let’s take a look at the anonymous accusations.
Disturbing allegations have been levelled at three executive producers of Ellen’s show: Kevin Leman, Ed Glavin, and Jonathan Norman. Some of the worst ones include: grabbing a PA”s penis at a company party, flipping over a table and screaming when an employee resigned, singling out black employees for inappropriate jokes, asking employees for oral sex, groping a PA in a car and kissing their neck, and inappropriately touching women in the control room.
Now, Ellen herself has not been accused of racism or sexual assault. But people are understandably angry that three of her senior producers may be predators.
Now, the anonymous Buzzfeed sources all disagree on what she does and doesn’t know. One theory is that because staff aren’t allowed to even talk to Ellen, the host remains completely isolated from the office culture. She doesn’t know about the sexual assault because she has no real interactions with her staff. If that’s the case, then Ellen’s main fault is poor leadership. The show has her name, but she makes no connections with the people who run it for her.
But if it turns out that she did know all along about the sexual assault, then that makes her an acessory to an awful crime. But unfortunately, even if the sexual assault accusers remain anonymous, we have some real names and faces openly criticizing Ellen. Which brings us to…
2. Named Employees
While the Buzzfeed sources remain completely anonymous, two former employees have spoken up using their actual names and faces. And they’re not big name celebrities themselves–they simply worked for her at some point. And according to both of them, it wasn’t a very pleasant experience.
A former DJ on her show, Tony Okungbowa, made an Instagram post on the subject. Despite his gratitude for the opportunity, he claims that working on The Ellen Degeneres Show was very toxic. Now, it’s worth noting that he doesn’t criticize Ellen herself, just the working environment as a whole. But then again, he doesn’t have anything nice to say about her, either, despite having DJ’d her show for eight whole years.
Of course, a bodyguard of hers only needed one short evening to get a bad impression. Tom Majercak escorted Ellen, her wife Portia, and her mother during the 86th Academy Awards. He claims that Portai was quite friendly and introduced him to Ellen. But Ellen didn’t bother to say hi, or even look him in the eye. After ten years of providing security for celebrities, Tom claims that she was the only one who never bothered to greet or thank him. But she was quite friendly with fellow celebrities that night, taking a famous selfie with a bevvy of big names.
Now, we have to wonder why Tony and Tom spoke up all these years later. After all, neither man has interacted with her since 2014. Tony explains that many people called him with questions about Ellen, and he was only coming forward to show solidarity with fellow employees. And Tom the bodyguard says that following Ellen’s treatment of beauty blogger Nikkie, he felt compelled to also speak up. Now, it’s possible that both men were doing this for the fifteen minutes of fame. But why would they? Tom Majercak guarded celebrities for years, and he could have accused any of them. And let’s point out that Ellen hasn’t responded to either of them. Apparently she still doesn’t find either of them worth her attention. Not surprising, given how busy she is putting a questionable spin on the situation.
1. Ellen’s Response
So to recap, Ellen faces two wildly different accusations: One, being mean. Two, allowing sexual predators to literally run her show. How do we make sense of this? Well, Ellen herself is only adding to the story.
She did issue a statement about the toxic work environment. She explained that as the show grew, she delegated responsibility to people like her producers. While she did apologize for the staff’s bad situation and promise to make it better, we can’t help noticing something: Ellen didn’t say a word about the sexual assault allegations. She vowed to participate in diversity and inclusion workshops but made no promises about protecting staff from sexual predators.
Why would she omit that serious aspect of the controversy? Now, it’s possible that she’s not sure whether the sexual assault actually happened and is waiting for the Warner Bros investigation to finish. But if that’s the case, we still have two questions. One, why can’t she explain that in her statement? Two, why were three producers fired? Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman, and Jonathan Norman have all been ousted–and they were the only ones accused of assault in the Buzzfeed article. If Ellen believes they’re innocent, why did she let the studio fire them without a word? If she believes they’re guilty, why hasn’t she apologized for letting them run her show? Her silence does make us wonder.
But maybe that’s the entire point–by refusing to bring up the possible sexual assault, maybe the studio simply hopes that audiences will forget.
But here’s the problem—nobody can stop talking about Ellen’s unkindness. Normally that would hardly make headlines. But Ellen’s entire brand rests on her mantra of being kind to others. After all, a big draw of her show is the philanthropy: she has donated millions of dollars to good causes big and small. People enjoy her show because they see her as Dory from “Finding Nemo”–adorable, good hearted, and a little goofy. But now her reputation for kindness is gasping like a fish on dry land.
Now, it’s worth noting that Ellen didn’t begin as a kindness professor. She began as a standup comedian. And anyone who’s watched her host the Oscars agrees that she is still a very funny lady. So maybe it doesn’t matter whether or not Ellen’s a mean person or an incompetent boss. If she continues to entertain people on her show, then they’ll keep watching. Here’s an idea: How about she changes her mantra to “Be Mean to People, But Still Donate to Charity”? SHe could host people on her show, be mean to them, and still hand out giant checks. That might be a show worth watching.
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