By Rachel Yang
August 28, 2020 at 12:11 PM EDT
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Credit: FOX/Getty Images

In the span of a few months, the sunny reputation of Ellen DeGeneres and her eponymous daytime talk program, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, has taken a nosedive. Despite her "be kind" mantra, DeGeneres and several senior staffers have been accused by current and former employees of fostering a toxic work environment; in response, DeGeneres has apologized to her staff, and three top producers have parted ways with the show. Meanwhile, several fellow celebrities have weighed in on the controversy, either defending or criticizing DeGeneres.

For a detailed breakdown, here is a timeline of the allegations against DeGeneres and her producers, their responses, the fallout, and more.

The beginning

Cracks in DeGeneres' public persona began to appear in spring 2020, during the early days of the coronavirus epidemic.

March 20: Twitter users allege bad experiences with DeGeneres

Comedian Kevin T. Porter got the ball rolling with a viral Twitter thread encouraging people to share their experiences with DeGeneres or stories about her, whom he called "notoriously one of the meanest people alive," seemingly alluding to long-festering but previously unsubstantiated rumors. The initial tweet has since racked up more than 70,000 likes.

Numerous people responded, with one Twitter user saying that, while working for DeGeneres, she was told to never look her in the eyes; another person claimed that "every day [DeGeneres] picks someone different to really hate." One person even alleged that DeGeneres tried to get her fired for wearing chipped nail polish while serving her food.

April 16: Ellen crew outraged by treatment during pandemic

The next month, Ellen crew members alleged that producers left them high and dry during the pandemic, and that they were told nothing "about the status of their working hours, pay, or inquiries about their mental and physical health from producers for over a month," according to a Variety report. The article also said crew members were later told they'd get major pay reductions, and their frustrations only increased when they heard the show hired a non-union company to help DeGeneres tape the show from her home.

A spokesperson for Warner Bros. Television, which distributes the show, told Variety, "Our executive producers and Telepictures are committed to taking care of our staff and crew and have made decisions first and foremost with them in mind."

April-June: Backlash to DeGeneres' comments about quarantine and Black Lives Matter

At least twice this year, DeGeneres sparked backlash for statements that many said came off as out of touch or ignorant. In April, people called out the comedian for comparing coronavirus lockdowns to "being in jail," given that DeGeneres presumably had the luxury of being able to shelter in place in her mansion.

Then in June, DeGeneres vowed to do better after critics felt her statement about Black Lives Matter was vague and ineffective. "For things to change, things must change," she said in a since-deleted tweet.

Ex-staffers speak out

With rumors and complaints about DeGeneres already swirling online, BuzzFeed News published two reports in July that indicated the host and her show's top producers had a lot of work to do.

July 16: Staffers blast Ellen show for 'toxic work environment'

BuzzFeed spoke to anonymous current and former Ellen staffers who alleged that senior producers fostered a toxic workplace full of racism, intimidation, and fear, going back years. While DeGeneres wasn't specifically called out for her behavior, one former employee held the host responsible if she wants to "have her name on the show."

From a Black employee describing racist microagressions that resulted in her walking off the job to others claiming they were fired after taking medical leave or bereavement days to attend family funerals, they paint a picture of a behind-the-scenes culture that clashes with the "be kind" mantra touted by DeGeneres.

July 27: Ellen show reportedly under investigation

Following the BuzzFeed report, The Ellen Degeneres Show was reportedly placed under internal investigation by WarnerMedia, which would entail interviews with current and past staffers. Executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner also released a joint statement to BuzzFeed taking full responsibility for the show's daily operations.

"For the record, the day-to-day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us," the statement said in part. "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."

July 30: DeGeneres addresses allegations in staff letter

Two weeks after BuzzFeed's initial report, DeGeneres addressed the allegations that she fostered a toxic workplace. In a letter to her staff, obtained by EW, DeGeneres avoided discussing specific complaints but promised that "things will now change." While she apologized for employees' negative experiences, DeGeneres also shifted some blame to those working for her.

"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," DeGeneres wrote. "Clearly some didn't. That will now change and I'm committed to ensuring this does not happen again."

In a statement to EW, Warner Bros. gave an update into the investigation, saying WarnerMedia found "deficiencies" in how the show was run. Without naming names, the company also revealed that there would be "several staffing changes made."

July 30: Ex-staffers accuse top Ellen producers of sexual misconduct

Hours after DeGeneres' letter was reported, BuzzFeed published accounts from 36 unnamed former employees alleging incidents of "harassment, sexual misconduct, and assault from top producers," with ex-staffers specifically calling out head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman, executive producer Ed Glavin, and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman for inappropriate behavior.

Leman and Norman both denied the allegations, while Glavin did not respond to the outlet's request for comment.

Aug. 17: DeGeneres issues second apology and announces staffing changes

DeGeneres apologized again to her staff in an emotional Zoom meeting on Aug. 17, during which employees learned that Glavin, Leman, and Norman were departing the show. Mary Connelly, Andy Lassner, and Derek Westervelt would stay on as EPs, according to Variety.

During the call, EW learned, DeGeneres spoke about being introverted and having good days and bad days, which caused her to keep to herself at times. Staffers were also informed that they would be receiving new perks, including paid time off and a generous medical leave policy, a source told EW.

A human resources executive provided by WarnerMedia had already started work and attended several Zoom meetings, a source also told EW. The executive does not report to the show's leadership, providing anonymity to workers and a dedicated advocate.

Where celebrities stand

Many stars have publicly shown their support for DeGeneres, like her wife, Portia de Rossi, and fellow comedian Kevin Hart; other public figures added their voices to criticism of the host.

DeGeneres' supporters

Hart has been one of DeGeneres' most vocal defenders, which shouldn't come as a surprise as she publicly forgave Hart when he got in trouble for past homophobic remarks. The two were photographed having lunch Aug. 16, and two days later, Hart vouched for DeGeneres in an interview.

"It's crazy to see my friend go thru what she's going thru publicly," Hart wrote on Instagram on Aug. 4. "I have known Ellen for years and I can honestly say that she's one of the dopest people on the f---ing planet. She has treated my family and my team with love and respect from day 1."

Here is a list of other celebrities who have defended DeGeneres:

DeGeneres' detractors

Former Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett was one of the first celebrities to criticize DeGeneres following the allegations. In July, the actor said he didn't buy her letter to staff, tweeting, "Sorry but it comes from the top ⁦@TheEllenShow Know more than one who were treated horribly by her.⁩ Common knowledge."

Here are other stars who've spoken out about DeGeneres:

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The Ellen DeGeneres Show

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