Ellen show ex-staffers reveal how bosses groped and kissed them behind the scenes, say 'she knows sh*t goes on'
'For someone who’s so involved in the show, it’s very hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that she doesn’t hear the same whispers'
In yet another explosive report published by Buzzfeed on Thursday, July 30, just hours after Ellen DeGeneres wrote an open letter to staffers apologizing for the alleged toxic work environment, former employees of the talk show spoke about several instances of sexual misconduct that junior-level workers faced at the hands of the showrunners and producers on the set.
For the report, 36 former employees who have worked on the show opened up about alleged groping, kissing, solicitation for oral sex and other forms of sexual misconduct that goes on behind the scenes of the show. "For someone who’s so involved in the show and the creative aspect, and having been in those meetings with her, it’s very hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that she doesn’t hear the same whispers," one former employee who worked closely with DeGeneres said. "Unless she really is just in this bubble."
In one of the alleged incidents that took place at a company party in 2013, Kevin Leman, the show’s head writer and executive producer, solicited him for oral sex, an ex-staffer said. Other employees also said they witnessed Leman grope and kiss employees and on one occasion grab a production assistant’s genitalia. "It’s masked in sarcasm, but it’s not sarcasm," a former employee said.
Another former staffer said younger or junior workers felt powerless to lodge a complaint. "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," a former employee told BuzzFeed News.
There were also separate allegations made against an executive producer Ed Glavin who is reportedly about to be fired, and show’s co-executive producer Jonathan Norman. One ex-employee who spoke to the outlet said they were put under pressure not to report any incidents of wrongdoing to human resources. ''There was no such thing as a confidential conversation," a former employee said. "There was no clear direction that if something happens to you, you go to this person, it will remain confidential, and you will not be retaliated against." Another former staffer accused the parent company Warner Bros of "turning a blind eye" to alleged misconduct because the highly popular show "is a cash cow" for the network.
''Warner Brothers has a responsibility not just to the people who work on The Ellen Show, but to its viewers and its shareholders to make sure people are protected on the job, and that they're not harassed, and they're not working in an environment that is toxic and unhealthy," the former employee said.
However, when it came to the question of whether DeGeneres had the slightest clue about what was going on behind the scenes of her show, opinions were divided among the former workers. Some believe that it was impossible that such levels of misconduct could escape the notice of the comedian. A former employee said: "She knows. She knows s*** goes on, but also she doesn’t want to hear it."
Others believed that she did not spend enough time in the office or interact with staff in order to find out if they were facing any issue with working on her show. "Everyone acted really differently around her," one former employee said. "There’s a show that’s happening behind the show, the show that the executive producers have us all put on for her when she comes to the offices."
Warner Bros released a statement to BuzzFeed News on Thursday, July 30, saying, it "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. It was important to both Warner Bros and Ellen that as many people as possible attached to the program could be heard. The Ellen DeGeneres Show is, and has always strived to be, a place that brings positivity to the world. And 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."
Following previous allegations of bullying and racism on the sets of the show, it was reported that the talk show had become the subject of an internal investigation by WarnerMedia. Executives from producer Telepictures and distributor Warner Bros. Television sent a memo to staffers last week saying they have engaged WBTV-owner WarnerMedia’s employee relations group and a third-party firm after the working conditions at the show were exposed.
Regarding the probe, the studio expressed its disappointment in a statement provided to Deadline, "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.”
On the other hand, DeGeneres took overall responsibility for the reports of toxic workplace allegations on her, hinting that she would soon be firing some people to right the wrongs on her show in the apology letter. "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," DeGeneres wrote. "Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again."