Ellen DeGeneres Show hit with sexual misconduct allegations

Marni Dixit
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·9-min read

Dozens of men and women who have worked on The Ellen DeGeneres Show have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against a number of the show's senior staff members. It comes just hours after Ellen herself apologised for the show’s culture.

Speaking with Buzzfeed News, one ex-employee ex-employee alleges that at a company party in 2013, head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman sexually propositioned him.

Ellen DeGeneres
Dozens of men and women who have worked on The Ellen DeGeneres Show have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against a number of the show's top executive producers. Photo: Getty

In a separate situation, another former employee claims he saw Kevin grab a production assistant's penis. Another said they saw him grope a production assistant in a car and kiss his neck.

Buzzfeed News reports that nearly a dozen former employees said it was common for Mr Leman to make "sexually explicit comments" at work.

"It's masked in sarcasm, but it's not sarcasm," one former employee told the website.

The former employees suggested that those who were targeted were lower-level and younger people, who didn't feel as though they could speak up.

“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 said.

Kevin has since categorically denied the claims in the Buzzfeed News article.

"I started at the Ellen Show as a PA more than 17 years ago and have devoted my career to work my way to the position I now hold. While my job as head writer is to come up with jokes — and, during that process, we can occasionally push the envelope — I’m horrified that some of my attempts at humour may have caused offence," he said.

"I have always aimed to treat everyone on the staff with kindness, inclusivity and respect.

"In my whole time on the show, to my knowledge, I’ve never had a single HR or inter-personal complaint made about me, and I am devastated beyond belief that this kind of malicious and misleading article could be published."

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In their interviews, Buzzfeed News spoke to 36 former employees who independently corroborated the claims of harassment, sexual misconduct and assault from top producers.

Ellen DeGeneres Show producers post with their Emmy
Kevin Leman (far right) and Ed Glavin (second from right), pictured here with Andy Lassner, Jonathan Norman, and Mary Connelly (L-R), have been hit with allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment. Photo: Getty

These people have all requested anonymity out of fear for retribution.

Warner Bros. has since released a statement, saying they "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," Warner Bros. said.

"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.”

In their interviews, Buzzfeed News spoke to 36 former employees who independently corroborated the claims of harassment, sexual misconduct and assault from top producers.

These people have all requested anonymity out of fear for retribution.

Warner Bros. has since released a statement, saying they "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," Warner Bros. said.

"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.”

Along with the allegations against Kevin Leman, five former employees have also said that Executive Producer Ed Glavin touched them in ways that made them uncomfortable, this includes rubbing their shoulders and back and placing his hand on their lower waist.

However, dozens more former employees also confirmed this was the case, saying Ed "had a reputation for being handsy with women," especially in the control room.

"You could definitely see the creep factor and the creepy touching,” one employee said.

“That was out in the open for everybody to see.”

"Obviously, no one wants that and no one wants to be uncomfortably touched by someone,” they added, “but you didn’t want to piss them off or you would be fired, so it was just that culture of fear.”

Ed Glavin has not responded to the allegations, however, 47 former employees also allege that he led with intimidation and fear.

Co-executive producer Jonathan Norman was also named by a former employee, who claimed that Jonathan attempted to perform oral sex on him.

Three of the former employee's colleagues on the show said he told them about the incident at the time and they've spoken of it in the years since.

In a statement, Jonathan said he is "100% categorically denying these allegations."

"I have never had a single complaint against me in my career. I have never 'groomed' anyone," he said.

"I have never done anything to harm another staff member. Ever. The person I believe you are referring to has ulterior motives for bringing down the show and has been acting with malice towards the show."

The crew on The Ellen DeGeneres show celebrate an award win
Numerous former employees of The Ellen DeGeneres Show have alleged they suffered from bullying, sexual misconduct and harassment. Photo: Getty

Former employees also alleged that there was no formal process by which they could confidentially file complaints.

One former employee said that WarnerMedia "turns a blind eye" to the alleged misconduct because the series "is a cash cow" for them.

Some of the people who were interviewed believed that Ellen didn't know much of what was going on behind the scenes because she doesn't spend enough time interacting with the staff to truly know what's happening.

However, others believe that can't be true.

"She knows," one former employee said. “She knows s**t goes on, but also she doesn’t want to hear it.”

Ellen apologises for bullying allegations in leaked letter

Ellen on the Ellen Show
Ellen finally broke her silence on the bullying allegations hours before the sexual misconduct and harassment allegations were published. Photo: Getty

In a leaked letter obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, the 30-time Emmy winner said she takes “responsibility” as the program bears her name, adding that changes will be made.

“Hey everybody — it’s Ellen. 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,” the letter read.

“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.

“I could not have the success I’ve had without all of your contributions. My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that.”

Over the past few months, the show has been plagued by rumours and recently, a number of staff and former workers on the daytime talk show spoke out anonymously to Buzzfeed News, slamming the reported mistreatment they experienced during their time at the show.

WarnerMedia is believed to have launched an internal investigation in the The Ellen DeGeneres Show, with a third party firm reportedly being hired to interview current and former staff about their experiences while working on the program.

Ellen added that the team has also begun an internal investigation and is “taking steps” to correct the issues.

“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,” she continued.

“I’m also learning that people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop. As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or — worse — disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.”

The 62-year-old comedian promised to do her part moving forward.

“It’s been way too long, but we’re finally having conversations about fairness and justice. We all have to be more mindful about the way our words and actions affect others, and I’m glad the issues at our show were brought to my attention. I promise to do my part in continuing to push myself and everyone around me to learn and grow,” she says. “It’s important to me and to Warner Bros. that everyone who has something to say can speak up and feels safe doing so.

“I am so proud of the work we do and the fun and joy we all help put out in the world. I want everyone at home to love our show and I want everyone who makes it to love working on it,” DeGeneres concludes, adding that she would have done this in person if it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic.

With additional reporting by Kristine Tarbert and Taryn Ryder.

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