Has Ellen DeGeneres been deserted by A-list pals amid show investigation?
She is ranked alongside “most admired” women such as Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey — and her multi-million-dollar brand is built on the phrase “be kind.”
But an internal investigation into Ellen DeGeneres’ popular daytime talk show has now left a question mark over her reputation.
Distributor WarnerMedia has launched a probe following accusations from current and former staffers on the show — which is shown weekdays on ITV2 — of bullying and racism on the “toxic” set.
Rumors of Ellen’s years of demanding ways culminated with ex-staff members swapping stories on Twitter, eventually pushing the company to investigate.
The findings could embarrass chat show queen Ellen, who was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom — America’s highest civilian honor — in 2016 by then President Obama.
Even though she has been surrounded by A-listers for years, none of them have been quick to come to her aid.
A source told The Sun: “Ellen has gained a reputation as a friend to the stars, but A-listers would have to take great risks to publicly defend the show.”
‘Ellen needs to see what’s going on’
“The explosion of the #MeToo movement has really shone a light on workplace conduct in Holly- wood. Studios are under pressure to change the culture,” the source said.
Ellen, 62, has won legions of fans globally for her comedy routines and chummy interviews with the world’s biggest stars. Her list of powerful pals includes Jennifer Aniston, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake and fellow chat show megastar Oprah.
Ellen was also at the front of the “Oscars selfie” with Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper when she hosted the Academy Awards in 2014.
Some fans looked at the photo in a different light in May after her ex-bodyguard Tom Majercak said she had treated him in a “demeaning” way at the ceremony.
Ellen has even managed to befriend Meghan Markle and Prince Harry — detailing last year how she had got to hold baby Archie on a trip to the UK.
But her reputation took a knock in March when a series of negative stories were unleashed. Comedian Kevin T Porter branded her “notoriously one of the meanest people alive” on Twitter and appealed for “insane stories” about her.
The responses included an allegation from TV writer Benjamin Siemon that “she has a ‘sensitive nose’, so everyone must chew gum from a bowl outside her office before talking to her, and if she thinks you smell you have to go home and shower”.
The New York Post then reported that Ellen had once called Apple boss Steve Jobs to complain that the font size on her iPhone was too small.
One current and ten former employees on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” — all of whom asked to remain anonymous — continued to complain of her behavior on the program.
A black woman who used to work there said when she was hired, a senior producer told her and another black employee: “Oh wow, you both have box braids. I hope we don’t get you confused.”
At the end of each episode of her chat show, which has been running since 2003, Ellen asks the audience and those at home to “be kind” to one another.
The mantra has spawned a line of Be Kind products which fans can buy, including a subscription box, hat and wine tote. One former employee said: “That ‘be kind’ bulls–t only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show.”
Others say they were instructed by managers to not speak to Ellen if they saw her. Most blamed exec producers and senior managers but argued Ellen needed to “take more responsibility” for the workplace environment.
One added: “If she wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what’s going on. I think the executive producers surround her and tell her, ‘Things are going great, everybody’s happy’, and she just believes that, but it’s her responsibility to go beyond that.”
Another ex-employee said they took medical leave for a month to check into a mental health facility following a suicide attempt.
But when they returned to work, they were told their position was being axed. They said: “You’d think that if someone just tried to kill themselves you don’t want to add any more stress to their lives.”
Another former employee said they were fired after taking time off on medical leave following a car accident and time away for family members’ funerals. The fourth person to speak out said they were given a warning for creating a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for medical costs that weren’t covered by their company health insurance.
Just 24 hours after launching it, they said they were told to take it down because of concerns it might hurt Ellen’s image.
In April, Ellen tweeted a video likening self-isolating in her $20 million Beverly Hills mansion to prison. She joked: “This is like being in jail. It’s mostly because I’ve been wearing the same clothes for ten days, and everyone in here is gay.”
Her public were not amused as the pandemic has put the lives of so many prisoners at risk.
Then more than 30 of her crew alleged that they had received no written communication about their working hours or pay for more than a month.
Ellen first forged her career as a stand-up comedian in the 1980s before finding mainstream success on US TV.
In her hit ’90s sitcom “Ellen” she played a neurotic bookstore — owner to huge acclaim. Now married to 47-year-old “Arrested Development” actress Portia de Rossi, she came out on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1997.
‘Workers’ stories taken very seriously’
Ellen’s sitcom character also revealed she was a lesbian to her therapist, played by Oprah, in an episode which was a landmark moment for TV in the US.
The show was controversially axed in 1998 following claims that Walt Disney — owner of the US TV channel ABC — was uncomfortable with the show’s subject matter now the main character was gay.
Five years later she launched The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which features informal chats with top celebrities — as well as huge gifts. During her Twelve Days Of Giveaways promotion, audience members receive $2,300 worth of prizes on each of 21 episodes.
In the third series, Ellen began surprising fans by introducing them to their favorite celebrities. The show has received 61 daytime Emmy awards.
In a joint statement, executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner said they take the stories of the employees “very seriously.”
They added: “Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1,000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe and inclusive work environment. We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be and not the mission Ellen has set for us.”
Executives from show producer Telepictures and Warner Bros Television sent a memo to staffers last week stating WarnerMedia had started a probe. Current and former staffers are set to be interviewed. Ellen has not publicly addressed the bullying or racism allegations surrounding her show.
Will the probe clear her name or bring more allegations to light? Only time will tell.
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