The report comes after DeGeneres apologized for her show's toxic work environment.

Caroline Goldstein
July 31, 2020 9:00 am
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Amid an internal investigation into The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s toxic work environment, dozens of former staffers have accused some of the show’s executive producers of “rampant” sexual harassment and misconduct, according to a BuzzFeed News report published on July 30th. Staffers specifically accused executive producer and head writer Kevin Leman, executive producer Ed Glavin, and executive producer Jonathan Norman of harassment. 

According to employees, Leman often targeted young, lower-level staffers who were fearful of retaliation if they spoke up. Beyond that, staffers told BuzzFeed News that HR provided employees no formal method to confidentially file complaints, and some employees said that top-level executives would actively pressure people not to approach HR. Amid other allegations against Leman, one employee told BuzzFeed News that the producer solicited him for “a hand job or oral sex” at a company party in 2013. Another said she saw Leman “grope a production assistant in a car and kiss his neck.”

Another source added that Leman would grope employees in front of other people, “and they’d laugh because ‘it’s just Kevin being Kevin.’”

Staffers also accused Ed Glavin of exploiting his power, saying he, too, would “touch [employees] inappropriately,” sometimes in front of as many as 30 people. Dozens more said Glavin “‘had a reputation for being handsy with women,’” and 47 employees believed that he “led with intimidation and fear on a daily basis.” 

Leman, Glavin, and Norman—whom one staffer accused of “grooming” him over a period of time before attempting to perform oral sex on him—all categorically denied their respective allegations.

WarnerMedia, the show’s parent company, and a third-party firm launched an official investigation into The Ellen DeGeneres Show following another BuzzFeed News report from earlier this month, in which former and current staffers said they routinely “faced racism, fear, and intimidation” in the workplace. In that report, staffers mainly accused Glavin and executive producers Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner.   

Regarding the investigation, a Warner Bros. spokesperson said in a statement to Variety that they “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.” Two anonymous sources involved in the investigation said Glavin would be “removed from his position,” according to The New York Times

Some staffers believe that DeGeneres is unaware of the toxic culture behind the scenes of her show, as executive producers would “insulate” her from the details. They also believe the host simply didn’t spend enough time interacting with the show’s staff to know what was going on.

However, one employee who worked with DeGeneres directly believes the host willingly turned a blind eye. “She knows,” the former staffer told BuzzFeed News. “She knows shit goes on, but also she doesn’t want to hear it.” 

On Thursday, July 30th, DeGeneres herself addressed the investigation in an apologetic email sent out to the show’s staff, which you can read in full on Variety

“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,” DeGeneres wrote. 

“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.”

DeGeneres continued that she has “not been able to stay on top of everything” as the show has grown, and instead relied on other people to manage things behind the scenes—to fairly disastrous effect. Moving forward, she wrote, “I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.”

“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,” she added. “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.”