Ellen DeGeneres is responding to the heartbreaking news that her ex-girlfriend Anne Heche was not expected to survive injuries sustained from a car crash.
“This is a sad day. I’m sending Anne’s children, family, and friends all of my love,” Degeneres, who dated Heche from 1997 to 2000, wrote in a post shared on Twitter.
Since DeGeneres' tweet, TODAY has confirmed that Heche is "legally dead," according to a statement from her family. She is being kept on life support so that an organ donation organization can find out if she is a match.
It's unclear if DeGeneres knew of Heche's status when she tweeted. DeGeneres' tweet was the first time the comedian released a statement on her ex, who had been suffering from a “severe anoxic brain injury” after a car accident in Los Angeles last week.
After being approached by a photographer earlier this week, DeGeneres responded to questions about her ex, saying, “We’re not in touch with each other, so I wouldn’t know.”
She added, “I don’t want anyone to be hurt.”
Though the two went their separate ways decades ago, their relationship was considered groundbreaking for its time and has been celebrated in the years since.
The two women dated openly and often appeared on red carpet events hand in hand during a time in which open same-sex relationships were uncommon and not often embraced positively by the public. In a 2020, profile for Mr. Warburton magazine, Heche reflected on how their relationship shaped our societal landscape as well as her career.
“Our time was a beautiful part of my life and one that I wear with honor,” Heche said at the time. “I was a part of a revolution that created social change, and I could not have done that without falling in love with her.”
Heche went on to marry Coleman Laffoon, with whom she had one son. After their divorce, married her "Men in Trees" co-star James Tupper. Together they also had a son. Heche became subject to criticism for her relationships with men in the years after her relationship with DeGeneres ended. Entertainment journalist Michael Musto reflected on that period in time in a 2018 open letter and apologized for his part in feeding the fodder with his reports on the actor.
“After your 2000 breakup with Ellen, all the strides you made in the press seemed to go backward, and we all turned on you, I have to admit. You entered a crisis phase and were behaving erratically—ringing a stranger’s bell and saying weird things on drugs, for one thing," he wrote at the time. "We dutifully made fun of your downfall, which was awful, even if Ellen herself had chimed in with some negative things to say about you in retrospect. You (and of course, those you may have been harassing) deserved more compassion at this point, especially in light of the advances you and Ellen had made for the community and how celebrated you had been as a new member of our club."
In 2021, Heche hosted Musto on her podcast “Better Together,” where she thanked him for his words.
“I wanted an apology from someone, anyone at all, to acknowledge that perhaps maybe the perspective that was painted on me wasn’t necessarily the full picture, so I want you to know how much it did move me,” she explained. “And the importance of it and the impact that I want to readers to understand that when we do something that’s nicer, kinder, in the right vein for others, it’s gonna get to them some way."
During that 2021 podcast episode, Heche also explained how her dad's death from AIDS in the 1980s inspired her to live her own life more openly. Her father’s “double life” informed her decision not to keep her sexuality in the shadows, and to come out to the world after knowing DeGeneres for only four days.
“That was a death sentence to me if I didn’t put it first in my life. In my opinion, that lie meant my death and the only way I was going to be a survivor of my life was to live in the truth,” she said. “What that did was challenged my commitment to it in a bigger way than I had ever imagined I would be challenged.”
In 2001, a year after their split, DeGeneres opened up to the Los Angeles Times on their relationship and the resulting heartbreak she endured after things ended between them,
“It was the first time I ever had my heart broken. I’d always been the one to leave relationships, and I had been in long-term relationships, and it was the one time I really believed this is forever,” DeGeneres said at the time.
“I felt safe and I felt we shared so much together, and it was the first time I’ve had my heart broken, and it was in a big way,” she added. “Because there is no closure ... I know what it’s like to lose someone, and that’s a horrible feeling, (but) it’s almost worse to lose someone and know they’re still alive out there, and I don’t understand. So it was a big heartbreak.”