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'Ellen' Producers Face Another Round Of Allegations, Including Sexual Misconduct

Ellen DeGeneres, posing at the Golden Globe Awards in January.
Frederic J. Brown
AFP via Getty Images
Ellen DeGeneres, posing at the Golden Globe Awards in January.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show is facing a new round of serious allegations, this time of sexual harassment and misconduct against three of the daily talk show's executive producers, as well as other forms of workplace misconduct. The allegations come from 36 former Ellen DeGeneres employees.

On Thursday, DeGeneres sent a note to her staff in which she apologized for the show's reputed toxic workplace environment and pledged to do better.

It was obtained by NPR, and reads in part: "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. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it's the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show."

The DeGeneres memo was originally reported by Variety on Thursday afternoon. It was sent just hours before BuzzFeed News published serious allegations about show's workplace culture from 36 former Ellen DeGeneres employees. The new allegations include more than 10 accusations of sexual harassment, groping and other forms of misconduct against executive producer and head writer Kevin Leman. Leman told BuzzFeed that he denies "any kind of sexual impropriety."

The new reporting also includes five allegations of inappropriate touching against executive producer Ed Glavin, who BuzzFeed News reported did not respond to the allegations.

Another former employee accused another executive producer, Jonathan Norman, of attempting to perform oral sex on him; three former colleagues corroborated the accusation, saying that the employee told them about the incident at the time. Norman told BuzzFeed News that he is "100% categorically denying these allegations."

Some of the former employees told BuzzFeed News that there was no way to make complaints confidentially within the show, and that senior staff pressured them not to go to HR at Warner Bros.

In her memo to staff, DeGeneres also wrote in part: "As we've grown exponentially, I've not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I'd want them done. Clearly some didn't. That will now change and I'm committed to ensuring this does not happen again."

The new allegations published by BuzzFeed News on Thursday followed a report published by the same outlet earlier this month, in which 11 current and former staffers made accusations against the show's senior executives and HR that included the firing of employees for having taken medical or bereavement leave and racist comments made against a Black employee. On Monday, NPR confirmed that WarnerMedia has started an internal investigation based on those earlier published allegations.

In its Thursday report, Variety said that Ed Glavin — who was also specifically mentioned in the first round of allegations — will be departing from the show. Across all of its reporting, BuzzFeed News says that 47 former employees accuse Glavin of having "led with intimidation and fear on a daily basis."

WarnerMedia sent a statement to NPR on Friday that read in part: "We hoped to determine the validity and extent of publicly reported allegations and to understand the full breadth of the show's day-to-day culture. ... though not all of the allegations were corroborated, we are disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show's day-to-day management. We have identified several staffing changes, along with appropriate measures to address the issues that have been raised, and are taking the first steps to implement them. Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres are all committed to ensuring a workplace based on respect and inclusion. We are confident this course of action will lead us to the right way forward for the show."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.
Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.