Ellen DeGeneres kicked off Season 18 of her talk show by publicly addressing the controversy surrounding the show for the first time.
“If you’re watching because you love me, thank you,” DeGeneres said at the top of Monday’s Ellen DeGeneres Show. “If you’re watching because you don’t love me, welcome.” She went on to quip, “How was everybody’s summer, good? Mine was great. Super terrific.”
DeGeneres’s namesake program has been the subject of troubling reports for months with claims of intimidation, racial insensitivity and sexual misconduct in the workplace. The 62-year-old host, who apologized to staffers twice for the workplace toxicity, was accused of fostering the environment, and an investigation is ongoing, though three senior staff members — Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman and Jonathan Norman — were let go so far. She addressed all that in her monologue in front of a virtual audience.
“I learned that things happened here that never should have happened,” DeGeneres said in her candid remarks. “I take that very seriously and I want to say that I am so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power and I realize with that power comes responsibility and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.”
She said that she and her staff “had a lot of conversations over the last few weeks about the show, our workplace and what we want for the future. We have made the necessary changes and today we are starting a new chapter.”
DeGeneres spoke of becoming known as the “Be kind” lady, explaining it came about after Tyler Clementi died by suicide after being bullied for being gay. She said “being known as the ‘Be kind’ lady is a tricky position to be in.” However, she insisted that she is the person that people see on TV, but she’s “also a lot of other things,” noting that she gets sad, mad, frustrated, anxious and impatient — like everybody else.
“I’m working on all of that,” she said. “I am a work in progress.”
But DeGeneres said she’s not trying to fool anyone — and that the version of herself that people see on TV is authentic.
“This is me and my intention is always to be the best person I can be,” she said. “And if I’ve ever let someone down, if I’ve hurt their feelings, I’m so sorry for that. If that’s ever the case, I’ve let myself down… Because I always try to grow as a person, I look at everything that comes into my life as an opportunity to learn.”
She said she “got into this business to make people laugh and feel good” and, with the success of the show, she’s now the boss of 270 employees “who help make this show what it is.” And she said all she wants is for them to be “happy” and to be “proud to work here.”
She said with the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, she still wants her show to be one hour of joy each day. “I’m committed to making this the best season we’ve ever had,” she promised.
With that, DeGeneres chatted with show DJ Stephen “tWitch” Boss, who received a promotion, to co-executive producer, amid the show hubbub. (He defended her amid the controversy.)
TWitch said, “The summer was a little crazy. It was a little intense. During that time, there’s been a lot of learning.” He said he’s glad to be back in the studio to “lead by example” and “put our best foot forward after a bounce back.”
People magazine reports that DeGeneres’s wife, Portia de Rossi, was backstage to support her during the premiere. The magazine also reports that the crew applauded DeGeneres when she walked off the set after taping.
Monday’s show featured an interview with actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish — from six feet away.
Premiere week — which actually is off to a late start amid the controversy, being pushed back two weeks from its original Sept. 9 date — will also include other star-studded guests, including Kerry Washington, Alec Baldwin and Kris Jenner.