Ellen DeGeneres speaks out in letter to staff after reports of toxic workplace

"On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' would be a place of happiness."

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
SUBSCRIBE
/ Source: TODAY
By Alexander Kacala and Diana Dasrath

Ellen DeGeneres and WarnerMedia are speaking out after an internal investigation has been completed into allegations about the workplace environment at "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

"On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' 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," the talk show host said in a letter sent to staff Thursday. "And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show."

“Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres take the recent allegations around the show’s workplace culture very seriously," a statement from WarnerMedia said Thursday. "We 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."

The investigation comes on the heels of a July 16 story by BuzzFeed in which one current employee and 10 former staffers claimed they endured a culture of racism, fear and intimidation. They blamed senior managers on the show for allowing the behavior.

Late Thursday, BuzzFeed published a new article alleging incidents of harassment, sexual misconduct and assault from top producers on the show.

BuzzFeed said they talked to 36 former employees, many of them independently corroborating incidents of abuse, according to the report.

NBC News reached out to DeGeneres and the show's executive producers for comment, but did not receive a response.

Thursday's statement from WarnerMedia said the company interviewed dozens of current and former employees about the environment at the hit daytime talk show.

"It was important to both Warner Bros. and Ellen that as many people as possible attached to the program could be heard," the statement said. "'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' is, and has always strived to be, a place that brings positivity to the world."

The allegations in the BuzzFeed report included former employees saying they were fired for taking time off for medical leave or bereavement. In another case, a former Black employee said she was subjected to multiple "microaggressions” during her tenure, including once at a staff party.

"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," the statement continued. "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."

On Thursday, TODAY obtained the letter DeGeneres sent to the show's staff:

Hey everybody — it’s Ellen. On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show 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. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.

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. Alongside Warner Bros, we immediately began an internal investigation and we are taking steps, together, to correct the issues. 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. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.

I’m also learning that people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop. As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or – worse – disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.

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, and 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. that everyone who has something to say can speak up and feels safe doing so.

I am so proud of the work we do and the fun and joy we all help put out in the world. I want everyone at home to love our show and I want everyone who makes it to love working on it. Again, I’m so sorry to anyone who didn’t have that experience. If not for COVID, I’d have done this in person, and I can’t wait to be back on our stage and see you all then.

Stay safe and healthy.

Love,

Ellen