Ellen talked at length about the controversies she was embroiled in last year, saying that they felt “orchestrated” and called out the entire “public humiliation” as “misogynistic.”
“It was really interesting because I’m a woman and it did feel very misogynistic,” she said on the Today show. “It felt like, I am a boss, I have a very successful show, I’ve never had any complaints about anything for 17 years, and all of a sudden, all at once, something happened….”
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“Sexist?” asked host Savannah Guthrie.
“I don’t know, I don’t know. Did feel weird.”
Ellen made a distinction between the personal attacks she faced in early 2020 and the accusations of running a “toxic” workplace in the summer of 2020. She said she found the first set of accusations – which started after comedian Kevin Porter went viral on Twitter offering people money for stories that showed that Ellen is actually “notoriously one of the meanest people alive” – “ridiculous.”
“Respond to this with the most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean,” Porter tweeted.
The stories were unverified – commenters said things like that Ellen pushed someone’s head in a toilet or that she requires all visibly disabled people to be cleared from a room before she enters – but the media coverage of that Twitter thread was widespread and fueled the public’s appetite for more criticism. When Dutch YouTuber Nikkie de Jager accused Ellen’s producers of not providing her with a private bathroom and making her use a shared bathroom with staff when she was a guest, she got extensive coverage in U.S. media.
Later, Buzzfeed News published multiple reports after interviews with dozens of former staffers that said that racism, sexual harassment, and disrespect for workers were rife behind-the-scenes of her show.
“It was devastating,” Ellen said. “I am a kind person, I am a person who likes to make people happy, I am a people-pleaser.”
“If I was a fan of somebody, and even if I loved them but I kept seeing something go on this long, I would think ‘There must be some truth to it,'” Ellen said. “So that made me think, ‘Someone’s trying to really hurt me.'”
She said that “right on the heels” of those accusations, she found out about the toxic workplace accusations through the media. She repeated her defense that she knew nothing about that and that when she found out through an internal investigation about “some things that happened that were not OK” – which resulted in several top producers getting fired – that she improved the situation.
“It was horrible timing, because it was just… It was me, then it was the show, and then it was like a thing that just felt like ‘Why do I want to go back?'” she said. “It felt personal. It felt like somebody really did not want this show to come back.”
Ellen called the accusations “too orchestrated” and “too coordinated” for her to understand how they all came at once.
“People get picked on, but for four months straight?” she said.
Ellen also said that she regrets saying “Be kind” often on her show for over a decade, which she started in order to draw attention to anti-LGBTQ bullying and suicide.
“Suddenly someone was like, ‘Hey, you know what would be good clickbait? If the Be Kind Lady isn’t kind,'” she said. “It was so easy to use that.”
Guthrie asked what Ellen would make her motto if she could go back and do it over again.
“Go fuck yourselves,” Ellen joked.