'Celebrity Brand Suicide?' Ellen DeGeneres' Horrible Summer Continues

Thursday July 30, 2020

Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres  (Source:Associated Press)

The hits keep coming at Ellen DeGeneres.

Earlier this week WarnerMedia, who own and syndicate the show, launched an internal investigation into staff complaints of a toxic work environment perpetuated by top producers that have gone viral in recent weeks, Variety reported.

What is prompting the investigation is said to be a BuzzFeed report in which the website "spoke to one current and 10 former employees on 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show', all of whom asked to remain anonymous, fearing retribution from the award-winning NBC daytime talk show and others in the entertainment industry. They said they were fired after taking medical leave or bereavement days to attend family funerals. One employee, who claims she was fed up with comments about her race, essentially walked off the job. Others said they were also instructed by their direct managers to not speak to DeGeneres if they saw her around the office."

The latest to come forward with complaints about the Emmy-winning talk show host is an Australian radio host Neil Breen who "experienced firsthand in 2013 when he was trying to organize an interview with her while working as an executive producer on 'Today,'" Fox News reports.

Initial plans had DeGeneres co-host the Sydney-based morning show, Breen said in a clip that can heard on radio station 4BC.

"We took the whole 'Today' show to Melbourne at our expense but she would do a sit-down interview with Richard Wilkins (the Today Show host). So Richard Wilkins and I went to one of the flashy hotels in Melbourne, where this was all set up, just the two of us. Of course, because it's the 'Ellen Show,' they controlled everything. So they controlled the interview seats, the lights, how it would work, everything..."

Ellen DeGeneres hosts her show in quarantine  (Source: Twitter)

"We walk in and then the 'Ellen Show' producers, there was a lot of them, there was a lot of people there," he explained. "Anyway the producers called us aside and said, 'This is how it is going to work here this morning. Ellen is going to arrive at 10:15. And she'll be sitting in this chair here, and Richard you will be sitting in this chair here. Now, Neil, no one's to talk to Ellen. So you don't talk to her. You don't approach her. You don't look at her. She'll come in. She'll sit down. She'll talk to Richard, then Ellen will leave...'

"I found the whole thing bizarre. And every word she said, all these producers would giggle and laugh. But I had asked them to be quiet because we were filming an interview... Anyway, I am not blaming Ellen because I didn't get to talk to her because I wasn't allowed to. So I don't know if she's a nice person or not because I haven't got a clue. But I will tell you the people who work with her walked on eggshells the whole time and the whole thing was totally bizarre. Like we're there to do an interview with her to promote what she's doing, but we can't look at her? Someone get real."

The Buzzfeed story contained "a spectrum of accused racist behavior," writes Variety. "From microagressions to jokes about mistaking two Black female employees with the same hairstyle, as well as criticism of statements allegedly made to another staffer by executive producer Ed Glavin."

Glavin, along with fellow executive producers Andy Lassner and Mary Connelly addressed the allegations in a joint statement to Buzzfeed in which they expressed regret that "even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It's not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us."

"For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better."

No doubt towards that end a current employee said that top producers held an all-staff meeting over Zoom in May to address 'low morale' at the company following Fox News' interview with DeGeneres' former bodyguard, who claimed she was "cold" and "demeaning" off-camera, The bodyguard backed up claims that she was 'cold' and 'demeaning' Fox News writes in a related report.

Fox asked Eric Schiffer, a branding expert and chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, as to the damage this might do to Ellen.

"Authenticity is king with celebrity brands and these continued leaks are lacerating her credibility and mangling her capacity to continue to try to be positioned at a high moral ground," Schiffer told Fox News.

"It's celebrity brand suicide," he added.

Nor does he see the producers taking the hit as a viable solution.

"Ellen is unwilling herself to accept full responsibility and is trying to get her senior producers to take the full hit which further shows a lack of character," Schiffer said. "A leader steps up and learns from it, and now we're learning that Ellen — who is considered to be squeaky clean in her persona — may be leading an organization that has stone-cold crazy racism going on within it. It's horrifying to think about."

He added that "it would be nearly impossible for DeGeneres to not have already been aware of the alleged abusive behavior going on behind the scenes," Fox reports.

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