Former 'Ellen DeGeneres Show' DJ says he felt 'the toxicity' of the work environment

DJ and actor Tony Okungbowa addressed recent reports that the daytime talk show has a toxic workplace culture in an Instagram post Tuesday.
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Actor Tony Okungbowa, who was a DJ on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" for several years, spoke out reports that the show was a hostile work environment. Donato Sardella / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

A former DJ from "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" spoke out on troubling allegations about the show's workplace, saying he felt the "toxicity of the environment" when he worked there.

In an Instagram post Tuesday, DJ and actor Tony Okungbowa said he was receiving calls to comment about recent reports that the hit daytime show was a hostile place to work.

"I was on air talent from 2003-2006 and from 2007-2013," Okungbowa wrote alongside a photo of himself in the show's DJ booth. "While I am grateful for the opportunity it afforded me, I did experience and feel the toxicity of the environment and I stand with my former colleagues in their quest to create a healthier and more inclusive workplace as the show moves forward."

Okungbowa was known to viewers as DJ Tony. He left in 2013 and was replaced by Stephen “tWitch” Boss, who is still in the role.

Representatives for DeGeneres and the “Ellen” show did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment about Okungbowa’s Instagram post.

His statement came as big names have been publicly coming to DeGeneres' defense.

Her brother, Vance DeGeneres, posted messages in support of his sister on Twitter and Facebook on Tuesday.

"I'm sick and tired of my sister being attacked," he wrote on Facebook. "She always has - and always will - stand against bullying of any kind. She's a smart, strong woman who has made a positive difference in the world."

On Twitter, he added: "If you think Ellen would knowingly allow bullying or racism on her show, you don’t know my sister. She has been and continues to be a bright light in a dark world. She’s one of the kindest, most generous people you’ll ever meet. And one of the funniest."

Over the past few days, several celebrities, including Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry, Kevin Hart, Diane Keaton, Jerry O'Connell and Scooter Braun, also have come to the Emmy Award-winning host's defense, recalling their positive experiences as guests on the show. Several cited her commitment to equality.

On Monday, DeGeneres' wife of 12 years, Portia de Rossi, thanked fans on Instagram for their support.

“To all our fans... we see you. Thank you for your support,” the former “Arrested Development" star wrote.

WarnerMedia conducted an investigation into the show's workplace culture and said last week that changes were being made to address the issues, including staffing changes.

A source close to the production told NBC News last week that DeGeneres was not part of the investigation. “It is not about her at all,” the source said.

The investigation came on the heels of BuzzFeed News article published earlier this month in which former employees claimed they endured a culture of racism, fear and intimidation while working for the show. They blamed executive producers and other senior managers for allowing the alleged behavior.

"The biggest common thread that everyone told me is that what goes on behind the scenes is a far cry from what the show represents in their 'be kind' messaging and what the show and what Ellen DeGeneres herself profits off of," BuzzFeed entertainment editor Krystie Yandoli told TODAY last week.

DeGeneres addressed the investigation in an internal email to her staff on July 30.

"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," she wrote. "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."

DeGeneres will return to host the 18th season of the show set to premiere on Sept. 9, Telepictures, the show's production company, confirmed Monday.