DeGeneres: "I'm a pretty good actress. I don't think that I'm that good that I could come out here every day for 17 years and fool you."

Ellen DeGeneres returned to the airwaves Monday with her first episode since the daytime talk show came under investigation for a "toxic" workplace.

In the opening of the season 18 premiere of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, DeGeneres addressed the controversy to her virtual audience.

"If you're watching, because you love me, thank you," DeGeneres says. "If you're watching it because you don't love me, welcome. How was everybody's summer? Good. Yeah, mine was great. Terrific. I'm so happy to be back in the studio. There are a lot of things I want to talk about. I've been looking forward to addressing it all directly and unfortunately talking directly to people has been illegal for six months."

"As you may have heard this summer, there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show," she continued. "And then there was an investigation. I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously. And I want to say, I am so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I'm in a position of privilege and power. I realized that with that comes responsibility and I take responsibility for what happens at my show. This is The Ellen DeGeneres Show. I am Ellen DeGeneres. My name is there. My name is there. My name is on underwear. We have 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."

"There were also articles in the press and on social media that said that I am not who I appear to be on TV because I became known as the 'Be Kind Lady,'" she continued. "And here's how that happened. I started saying 'be kind to one another' after a young man named Tyler Clemente took his own life after being bullied for being gay. I thought the world needed more kindness. And it was a reminder that we all needed that. And I think we need it more than ever right now. Being known as the 'Be Kind Lady' is a tricky position to be in. So let me give you some advice out there. If anybody's thinking of changing their title or giving yourself a nickname, do not go with the 'Be Kind Lady.'"

"The truth is I am that person that you see on TV. I am also a lot of other things. I sometimes I get sad. I get mad. I get anxious. I get frustrated. I get impatient. And I am working on all of that. I am a work in progress and I'm especially working on the impatience thing because, and it's not going well because it's not happening fast enough. I am a talk show host and you know that. But maybe some of you know I was an actress. I've played a straight woman in movies. So I'm a pretty good actress. I don't think that I'm that good that I could come out here every day for 17 years and fool you. This is me. And my intention is to always be the best person I can be. And if I've ever let someone down, if I've ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that. If that's ever the case, I have let myself down and I've hurt myself as well, because I always try to grow as a person. I look at everything that comes into my life as an opportunity to learn. I got into this business to make people laugh and feel good."

"Now I am a boss of 270 people, 270 people who help make this show.  I want is for every single one of them to be happy and to be proud to work here. This has been a horrible summer for people all around the world. People are losing their jobs. People are losing loved ones to a pandemic. People are losing their homes and lives in raging fires that are going on. There's blatant racial injustice all around us. I watched the news and I feel like where, where do we even begin? So my hope is that we can still be a place of happiness and joy. I still want to be the one hour a day that people can go to escape and laugh. I want to continue to help all the people that we help every day. And I'm committed to making this the best season that we have ever had."

DeGeneres also congratulated Stephen “tWitch” Bosson on his promotion to co-executive producer on the talk show and will be joined during Monday's episode by comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish. The show's season premiere week will also have appearances by Kerry Washington, Alec Baldwin, SuperM ,and Kris Jenner.

Over the course of just a few months, DeGeneres has gone from a daytime queen with the mantra "be kind" to a vilified figure on social media. A slew of employees and others have accused the trailblazing talk show host of fostering a toxic work environment, one that included allegations of sexual misconduct, racism, and a "culture of fear." Studio Warner Bros. confirmed that executive producers Ed Glavin and Kevin Leman and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman have left the show (and have denied any wrongdoing).

DeGeneres, meanwhile, repeatedly apologized to her staff. As previously reported by EW, DeGeneres spoke in a Zoom meeting with her staff on Aug. 17 about being introverted and having good days and bad days, which caused her to keep to herself at times, something she acknowledged could be misinterpreted as her not being nice. “Does that mean I’m perfect? No. I’m not," she was heard saying. "I’m a multi-layered person, and I try to be the best person I can be and I try to learn from my mistakes." The staff was also given a new perks package that included additional paid time off and an improved medical leave policy.

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