Louisa Marshall, The List
The following article contains allegations regarding workplace harrassment, sexual assault, and racism.
At the height of her success as a daytime talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres seemed to have it all. From adoring fans and millions of views on YouTube to hopeful in-person viewers clamoring for tickets, DeGeneres’ hold on afternoon television was tight. However, rumors started to trickle into the social media ether that not all was well behind the scenes. After a damning report by BuzzFeed News detailing workplace abuse came to light, DeGeneres’ empire came tumbling down.
Whether you consider yourself a fan of the Emmy-winning host or not, you most likely knew that DeGeneres ended every show by saying, “Be kind to one another.” It was that very sentiment, kindness, that eventually came back around to bite her, as her show’s ratings tumbled after the allegations surfaced. The drama truly came to a head, however, when DeGeneres announced that her storied show would end in 2022.
DeGeneres is no longer filming the program that has featured the likes of Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian, and countless other guests. Her last day on set was April 29, and to say that the conclusion to a fraught talk show was emotional for the host is an understatement.
DeGeneres’ Reputation Took A Hit After Former Employees Spoke Out
While Ellen DeGeneres solidified her on-screen persona with her dance moves, hilarious skits, great opening monologues, and heartfelt stories, her titular show was not all it seemed. In July 2020, BuzzFeed News published a scathing report about the NBC show, including testimony from a number of unnamed former employees who feared retaliation. According to the insiders, DeGeneres’ show was fraught with misconduct, racist microaggressions, and other horrific workplace behaviors.
“That ‘be kind’ bulls*** only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show,” a former employee alleged. “I know they give money to people and help them out, but it’s for show.” Another former employee told the outlet the talk show host needed to be far more in the know about what was really going on behind the scenes, as Degeneres reportedly only knew what higher-ups deemed necessary.
“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,” the employee claimed.
Things Went From Bad To Worse After Reports Of Sexual Misconduct Came To Light
If reports of workplace abuse and professional misconduct weren’t enough, BuzzFeed News reported shortly after their eye-opening exposé that sexual assault also took place at the hands of Ellen DeGeneres’ executive producer, Kevin Leman. A former employee shared with the outlet that during a work part in 2013, Leman asked him to perform sexual acts. Another ex-employee claimed to have witnessed Leman “grab” a production assistant by the genitalia.
If the accounts of two former employees weren’t damning enough, dozens of former employees bolstered the allegations, confirming that Leman often made “sexually explicit comments in the office.” While an ex-employee admitted that Leman would often veil his comments with “sarcasm,” there was nothing funny about it.
“He’d probably do it in front of 10 people and they’d laugh because ‘it’s just Kevin being Kevin,’ but if you’re in a position of power at a company, you don’t just get to touch me like that,” another former employee revealed to BuzzFeed.
An Investigation Was Launched, But It Was Arguably Too Late
In the wake of the explosive testimonies from former employees of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Warner Media launched an internal investigation to get to the crux of the issues at hand. As such, Ellen DeGeneres herself sent a memo to the entire staff of her show, addressing the allegations in-house and admitting that she was not in the know about the ongoing issues.
“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,” DeGeneres wrote at the time (via Today). “Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case.”
The host went on to explain that while executive producers did not relay such issues to her, she admitted, “My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that.” In the wake of the investigation, executive producers Ed Glavin and Kevin Leman were fired, as well as co-executive producer Jonathan Norman. However, BuzzFeed News noted that the show’s rating and celebrity retention were starting to falter.
Ellen DeGeneres Announced Why Her Show Would End After 19 Seasons
With so much drama and so many mind-boggling allegations surrounding her show, it didn’t come as a huge surprise when Ellen DeGeneres announced that her daytime talk show was coming to an end. While she didn’t cite the eye-opening reports or the internal investigation as reasons for the program’s final bow, the timing certainly alluded to such a decision.
However, in the wake of the announcement, she sat down with The Hollywood Reporter, citing an entirely different reason for the impending ending. “When you’re a creative person, you constantly need to be challenged — and as great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge anymore,” she said. “I was going to stop after Season 16. That was going to be my last season, and they wanted to sign for four more years and I said I’d sign maybe for one.”
The famed host went on to explain that after she filmed the 3,000th episode — which featured a number of clips of the show’s greatest moments — actor Mike Darnell turned to her and said, “You really want to [end this]?” But DeGeneres said she was steadfast. “Look, it’s going to be really hard on the last day,” she said, “but I also know it’s time.”
The Talk Show Took A ‘Farewell’ Format For Its Final Season
In an attempt to send “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” off with a bang, the daytime program took on the form of a “farewell season,” providing programming, interviews, and trips down memory lane as a way to cap its 19 seasons. As reported by Deadline, the last season’s promotional material included interviews with Michelle Obama, George Clooney, and Julia Roberts among other big-time A-listers all sitting across from Ellen DeGeneres on the show. It also took a moment to highlight the “almost half a billion dollars” given away on the show.
DeGeneres assured viewers that the final season would be amazing. “I promise you that we’re going to have a fantastic final season. It will be a season where I truly get to say, Thank You. Thank you all. Every day will be a celebration,” DeGeneres said. “There will be a lot of surprises, there will be trips down memory lane, and a few detours through Why Did I Wear That Alley.”
DeGeneres’ Final Days Of Filming Took Place On An Important Anniversary
Before she was known for her daytime talk show, Ellen DeGeneres was a popular sitcom actress, starring in her own ABC show, “Ellen.” As many know, the comedienne’s time on the network came to a close when she publicly came out as gay — both for her character, Ellen Morgan, and herself. As noted by People, DeGeneres played “the first gay or lesbian lead character on a U.S. network television show.” While the move made a huge impact on viewers, it ultimately resulted in DeGeneres’ departure from ABC.
While the experience was incredibly difficult for DeGeneres, she took the opportunity to reflect on the journey she endured, and during the final days on her titular talk show she celebrated the 25th anniversary of her public coming out.
“When I came out, people warned me that it was going to ruin my career, and they were right — for a while,” she said on her show. “Actually, for exactly three years, I lost my career. But look at me now.” She continued, saying, “It really goes to show you how important it is to be your authentic self, and how important it is to accept others as their authentic selves.”
The Host Took To Social Media To Reflect On The Show’s Legacy
Ellen DeGeneres’ final days as the host of her titular daytime talk show were not only filled with trips down memory lane and anniversary celebrations, but with deep reflection and emotional tributes. In an eye-opening post on Instagram shared on April 29, DeGeneres told fans and followers alike that she had just wrapped filming the finale episode of her show and provided her insight into the 19 years she spent on the air.
“When we started this show in 2003, the iPhone didn’t exist. Social Media didn’t exist. Gay marriage wasn’t legal,” DeGeneres wrote in the heartfelt post. “We watched the world change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. But whatever was happening, my goal was always for the show to be a place where we could all come together and laugh for an hour.”
DeGeneres went on to thank viewers for allowing her to enter their living rooms, iPhones, social media feeds — you name it — as the years progressed. She wrote that it was “the greatest privilege” of her life. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” the post concludes.