Ellen opens up in emotional interview
Ellen DeGeneres has labelled the allegations that she oversaw a toxic workplace "misogynistic" and "too orchestrated" in an explosive interview with US television, shortly after announcing her plans to quit her beleaguered talk show.
Yesterday, DeGeneres said she would front the upcoming 19th season of The Ellen DeGeneres Showbefore ending the series in 2022.
She hosted its very first episode back in 2003, and has since led more than 3000 shows. But her reputation has copped a beating in the past 12 months.
DeGeneres said she was quitting the job because it was "just not a challenge anymore".
Today she sat down with the queen of the celebrity tell-all, Oprah Winfrey, to discuss her decision to quit. But before that interview aired, DeGeneres also spoke to Savannah Guthrie, the anchor of NBC's Today program.
“When I come out here, it’s not like I have to fake it … what’s not easy is for me to turn it on when I feel sad inside. That’s the depression.” -Ellen DeGeneres on the mental toll of hosting her talk show for nearly two decades pic.twitter.com/B2vPCRs6My— TODAY (@TODAYshow) May 13, 2021
Guthrie asked whether the workplace allegations had "anything to do" with her decision.
"If it was why I'm quitting, I would not have come back this year. Because everything happened, what you're talking about, last summer," DeGeneres said.
"Honestly, I really did think about not coming back. Because it - I mean, it was devastating. Because it started with me, it started with attacks on me, and attacking everything that I stand for and believe in and built my career around.
"I am a kind person. I am a person who likes to make people happy. I am a people pleaser. This is who I am. And so when I started hearing, reading ridiculous things, and then it just kept going and going and going and going, and it was during the summer so I didn't have any platform to respond to it - I just kept saying to Portia, if I was a fan of somebody, even if I loved them, but I kept seeing something go on this long, I would think there must be some truth to it, because it's not stopping.
"So that made me think, someone's trying to really hurt me. And then right on the heels of that, I read in the press that there's a toxic work environment, which - I mean, I had no idea. Never saw anything that would even point to that.
"There was an investigation which found out there were some things that happened that were not OK, and we took care of that. But it was horrible timing, because it was me, then it was the show, then it was a thing that just felt like, why do I want to go back? When someone clearly - it felt personal. It felt like someone really did not want the show to come back.
"And I thought, if I don't come back, they win. And I'm not going to let them win."
"Did you feel like you were being cancelled?" Guthrie asked.
"I really didn't understand it. I still don't understand it," said DeGeneres.
"Yeah, I thought something was going on, because it was too orchestrated, it was too co-ordinated. And you know, people get picked on, but four months straight for me?
"And then for me to read in the press about a toxic work environment, when all I've ever heard from every guest that comes on the show is what a happy atmosphere this is, and what a happy place it is."
Guthrie pushed back a little on this point, saying people would be wondering how DeGeneres was so oblivious about her own employees' work environment.
"I don't know how I could have known when there's 255 employees here. And there are a lot of different building and a lot of different areas," DeGeneres protested.
"And I delegate. There are bosses to each area. It is my name on the show, so clearly it affects me, and I have to be the one to stand up and say, 'This can't be tolerated, we need to make changes, what can I do?'
"Unless I literally stayed here until the last person goes home at night, and checked in with 255 people ... but I do wish somebody had come to me and said, 'Hey, something's going on that you should know about.'
"But there's no way that - I wish I knew. And of course people are thinking that I should know. But it's not, there are not 50 people here. There are 255 people here. And I just had no idea."
Later in the interview, DeGeneres said the backlash against her was misogynistic.
"I have to say if nobody else is saying it, it was really interesting, because I'm a woman, and it did feel very misogynistic," she said.
The second interview with Winfrey hasn't aired in full yet, but DeGeneres did post a preview of it online ahead of time.
Winfrey told her she was in "this exact position" 10 years ago when she ended The Oprah Winfrey Show after 25 seasons.
"I know what those feelings are. I also know the feelings leading up to it," she said.
"So hearing you say and announcing it to the world that it was your instinct and that you thought long and hard about it - because anybody would know that for something that is as powerful as this show is in other people's lives that you would not take that lightly and that coming to the realisation that now it is time is a process."
"There's just different things, as a creative person, that I feel like I need to do," DeGeneres said.
"There were tears. It was really hard because I do love everyone here," she added, describing the moment she told her staff the show would end.
"This is my life, and theirs too. But I wanted to give them a year. I wanted to give them enough time to know. I didn't want to do it the last year I was here. I wanted to give them a year to celebrate with me and stay with me."
Winfrey and DeGeneres have a long history together, with Oprah appearing in a key role as Ellen's therapist in the 1997 episode of her sitcom that saw her character - and Ellen herself - come out to the world.
Just hours after her announcement yesterday, one of DeGeneres' former employees went on the attack. Former producer Hedda Muskat gave an explosive interview to Sunrise.
Muskat, who was one of the first producers hired to work on the show during its debut season, said its demise had come because viewers had finally "woken up" to Ellen's true nature.
"The viewers have spoken. Her ratings have been in the toilet for a long time now. Her show has not been fun, it has not been interesting, and she's not really 'stepping down' - the viewers fired her," she said.
Muskat alleged that DeGeneres "despised" her non-celebrity guests, and claimed the talk show titan was not in a position to interview real people because she really couldn't carry a conversation with them.
Asked what she thought DeGeneres should do once her obligations on the show come to an end, Muskat said her former employer should "work on a farm with all of the animals and the pets and the dogs and the cows and the pigs because she can relate to animals far more than she does with people".
Originally published as 'I had no idea': Ellen's emotional tell-all