Ellen DeGeneres kicked off the Season 18 premiere of her talk show by acknowledging the very big elephant in the room — and no, not the fact that her audience has been replaced by giant awkward screens.
“I learned that things happened here that never should have happened," DeGeneres said. "I take that very seriously and I want to say that I’m so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power. And I realised that with that comes responsibility and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.”
In late July, BuzzFeed News published two investigative reports that detailed the accounts of many anonymous former employees who claimed that the culture at The Ellen DeGeneres Show was un rife with fear, discrimination, and both emotional and physical harassment. This led to an internal investigation by WarnerMedia into the allegations, and three top producers in particular who were accused of routinely engaging in sexual misconduct were fired. DeGeneres apologised to her staff, but this is the first time she's publicly addressed the scandal head-on.
DeGeneres then said that the Ellen team has had "a lot of conversations" about their goals for the future. "We have made the necessary changes, and today, we are starting a new chapter," she said.
Along with taking responsibility for the turmoil that transpired at the talk show, DeGeneres spent a lot of time talking about her reputation, which was also subjected to much criticism this summer. Rumours have always circulated that DeGeneres doesn’t always put her own "be kind" mantra into practice, but in late March, comedian Kevin T. Porter asked people on Twitter to share “the most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen [DeGeneres] being mean,” and over 2,600 people replied.
"Being known as the 'be kind' lady is a tricky position to be in," DeGeneres said. She explained that she developed her mantra in 2010, after 18-year-old Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi died by suicide after he was bullied for his sexual orientation. From then on, she urged people to spread compassion and kindness, but she acknowledged that she can't be sunny 100% of the time and is a "work in progress."
"I am that person you see on TV," she said. "I am also a lot of other things. Sometimes I get sad. I get mad. I get anxious. I get frustrated. I get impatient. And I am working on all of that.
She went on to urge that her caring persona on her show isn't performative. "I don’t think I’m that good [of an actress] that I could come out for 17 years and fool you," she said. But she apologised to those who have felt "let down" by her over the years. "If I’ve ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that. If that’s the case, I’ve let myself down and I’ve hurt myself, as well. Because I always try to grow as a person."
She finally went on to thank her 270 employees on Ellen, who she said she is "grateful for," and stated her commitment to making the show the feel-good place it strives to be.
"I still want to be the one hour of the day where people can go to escape and laugh," said DeGeneres, "and I’m committed to making this the best season that we have ever had."