One of the dirty little secrets about the world of entertainment is that few of the "Me Too" scandals or accusations of abuse towards staff and/or crew are really a surprise to individuals who work in the industry. Abusive bosses, sexual predators and just generally bad people are usually pretty well known in industry circles. There are plenty of rumors, often driven by war stories spread by ex-coworkers and people who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. But no wants to talk publicly about the situation, both for career and for legal reasons. Everyone just hopes the truth will eventually come out.
That's why when Buzzfeed published a story last week laying out dozens of accusations from former staff and crew of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," it wasn't much of a surprise to entertainment industry insiders. Stories about abusive behavior from several of the show's producers had been passed around for a long time, although it's fair to say that I don't think anyone anticipated the level of misconduct on the show:
Ex-workers also said they were uncomfortable when Ed Glavin (executive producer of the show) used his private shower in his office bathroom.
"You’d be going into his office for an important meeting and the shower door is open and you’re like, that’s a little weird," a former employee said. “The shower is right when you walk in on the right. Before you even see his desk, you see his shower. He’d be openly showering and going into meetings with wet hair."
Another former employee said co-executive producer Jonathan Norman groomed him over a period of time by taking him to concerts and other work-related perks, and then one night attempted to perform oral sex on him. Three of the employee’s former colleagues on the show corroborated that he told them about the incident at the time and said they have discussed it in the years since.
DeGeneres quickly sent an email to staff outlining her sadness about the situation and promising to do better in the future:
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. Alongside Warner Bros., we immediately began an internal investigation and we are taking steps, together, 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.
Some people I spoke with after the email was made public were less than impressed with her effort, arguing that given the scope of the problem, it's difficult to believe that she wouldn't have some sense there were problems with her staff. But these sources - all of which had interacted numerous times with DeGeneres in the past - also noted that she has long had a reputation for being a difficult and often contentious boss. And not in the "oh, she's a woman, so she's difficult" way. More than one person recounted specific stories about her behavior, both on her current daytime talker as well as on her early ABC primetime comedy "Ellen." As one person told me who has known DeGeneres a long time, "like a lot of people here, she is ultra focused on her job and she wants things done in a specific way. And like a lot of powerful people, when that doesn't happen...she can be forceful."
Despite some new stories arguing that DeGeneres should be replaced as host of the show (which might be difficult given that the show is named after her), at least at this point it doesn't appear that is going to happen. At least, not unless an ongoing investigation by show producer WarnerMedia uncovers other unexpected stories of misconduct.
But some close to the comedian apparently realize that at this point, public opinion is as important as any individual allegation. So an email went out to an unknown group of celebrities and friends of Ellen's yesterday, asking for a statement of public support. I had the opportunity to read a copy of the email, which a longtime friend of mine from my stand-up days passed along to me this morning. I agreed not to quote from it, since it appears to be at least partially written specifically to this particular celebrity. This person has made several appearances on her daytime show and has known her for more than a decade.
The email asked for a social media post or other message of support for the embattled DeGeneres, although it also made clear that the request was simply that. A request to say something positive if the recipient felt comfortable doing so. While the rest of the support wasn't laid out in specifics, it was suggested that some possible topics could be a reaffirmation of the recipient's positive dealings with her and the show's staff and/or a mention of her overall kind approach to everyone who works for her.
The email appears to come from someone in a position close to DeGeneres, although I was unable to get a confirmation on the authenticity of the request. If it is authentic (and I have no reason to think that it isn't), it also isn't clear whether it was done with Ellen's support or whether it was sent to a large number of people. I've been able to confirm that at two other people received a similar request, although both of those recipients were unwilling to discuss the matter other than to confirm they had received the email.
I have no way of knowing what a celebrity's motivations might be for tweeting out support for DeGeneres today. But it might not be a coincidence that a few friends of the host shared their support for her on social media. Albeit support that was oddly specific about what they knew and didn't know. It's also not surprising that a fellow celebrity might have had a slightly different experience on the show when compared to the workday of a production assistant:
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It’s crazy to see my friend go thru what she’s going thru publicly. I have known Ellen for years and I can honestly say that she’s one of the dopest people on the fucking planet. She has treated my family and my team with love and respect from day 1. The internet has become a crazy world of negativity....we are falling in love with peoples down fall. It’s honestly sad...When did we get here? I stand by the ones that I know and that I love. Looking forward to the future where we get back to loving one another....this hate shit has to stop. Hopefully it goes out of style soon....This post is not meant to disregard the feelings of others and their experiences....It’s simply to show what my experiences have been with my friend. Love you for life Ellen...
Now cynics might suspect that Kevin Hart's support for Ellen might be a bit of a thank you for her public support of him when he was going through his own PR nightmare a few months ago. But Hart was by far not the only star who decided to just randomly share their support of DeGeneres on social media in the past 24 hours or so:
To be fair, there's nothing wrong with encouraging fellow celebrities to provide a bit of public support. But there's also nothing wrong with highlighting the fact that a fair amount of the public support is the result of some organization.