Hostile work environment allegations not surprising given Ellen’s past

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Isabella Bass / Hilltop Views

Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show has been known for spreading positivity and laughter through daytime television for over 15 years. Many have idolized DeGeneres as a kind and generous person because of all that she has given people and helped people with (money, cars, etc.). However, recent allegations have challenged that reputation and made former supporters rethink DeGeneres and her show in terms of what it represents. As someone who has always been skeptical of the persona DeGeneres puts out to the public, I believe these allegations are justified and not surprising. 

The allegations began with a Twitter thread started by writer and podcast producer Kevin T. Porter, encouraging people to share their experiences with Ellen. One user stated, “every day she picks someone different to really hate.” Another alleged that they were not allowed to make eye contact with her or initiate conversation while working for her. 

Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many staffers on Ellen’s show complained about how the show handled employee matters. At first, the employees were unaware for some time what the fate of their pay and hours were. They later found out that they would receive significant reductions in their pay and that a non-union company had been hired to tape segments of the show from DeGeneres’ home. 

In addition to these allegations, video interviews from Ellen’s talk show have shown questionable and rude behavior on Ellen’s part. One example occurred when Ellen became seemingly irritated with a translator when she had a young Chinese ukulele prodigy on the show, becoming irritated with the way the translator was helping them communicate. Ellen has also made fun of Colombian actress Sofia Vergara’s accent on many occasions, and in a 2017 interview DeGeneres taught Vergara an English word of the day, despite Vergara being fluent in English and saying this in the interview. 

Ellen has also been known to make her guests uncomfortable while on the show. In a 2008 interview with Mariah Carey, she brought out champagne which forced Carey to publicly admit she was pregnant. Soon after, Carey announced she had a miscarriage. Carey recently spoke on this, saying “I was really uncomfortable with that moment is all I can say. And I have had a hard time grappling with the aftermath.” 

In a 2019 interview with Dakota Johnson, Ellen put Johnson on the spot asking her why she didn’t invite her to her birthday party, when Johnson in fact did invite her and Ellen didn’t attend. 

I have always viewed Ellen’s behavior in her show as disingenuous and overly positive in a seemingly fake way. Ellen often seems to alternate between acting cheerful and annoyed, veiling annoyance under the guise of humor. She also appears to feel entitled to the guests’ personal information or entitled to a friendship with the guests. 

While I’m not surprised to read these personal accounts along with seeing the video evidence examples, it is a positive thing to be speaking out about issues we feel are important such as toxic work environments or disingenuous behavior. I feel that we especially need to call out those who put up a persona of promoting positivity and equality, yet their behavior shows a lack of consideration for both their guests and employees.