Ellen DeGeneres Addresses Controversy in Season 18 Premiere: 'She Didn't Hold Anything Back,' Source Says

Ellen DeGeneres "knows that it's on her to make sure everyone feels like they're being heard and valued," a source tells PEOPLE

After teasing that she would "talk about it," Ellen DeGeneres is kicking off the season 18 premiere of The Ellen DeGeneres Show by directly addressing the allegations about numerous complaints of workplace toxicity.

"She didn't hold anything back," a source tells PEOPLE about DeGeneres' opening monologue. "It was poignant and funny and very much a candid take on what happened over the summer. She understands her audience wants to hear from her and is looking forward to talking directly to them on Monday."

Leading up to the premiere, the source says DeGeneres was "connecting with the staff over Zoom" and "knows that it's on her to make sure everyone feels like they're being heard and valued."

Then, on the day the season 18 premiere was filmed, DeGeneres was supported by her wife Portia de Rossi and the crew applauded when the host walked off the set, according to the source, who says: "It was an emotional moment for everyone; she thanked everyone."

Ellen Degeneres
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

The NBC daytime talk show, which was originally expected to return on Sept. 9, was clouded in controversy this summer after BuzzFeed News published a report in which one current and 10 former staffers spoke anonymously about their experiences on set, including claims of being penalized for taking medical leave, instances of racial microaggressions and fear of retribution for raising complaints.

In late July, Warner Bros. launched an internal investigation that concluded in August when DeGeneres, 62, spoke to her 270 employees via an emotional video conference, during which she apologized and confirmed that three top producers — Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman and Jonathan Norman — exited the show.

"Ellen has come away from this reinvigorated and devoted to working hand-in-hand with the staff to bring joy and humor to the fans," the source shares. "Ellen is excited to be back on set and wants this to be the best season yet."

Ellen Degeneres
Ellen DeGeneres. Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

As the show moves forward with production on season 18, the source says DeGeneres and the staff are "happy to be back at work together," adding that they're "taking it one day at a time, but so far the environment on set already feels different."

An in-studio audience will not be present due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but celebrity guests will be appearing alongside DeGeneres.

Tiffany Haddish joins DeGeneres on the Burbank, California, set as the season's first guest. Kerry Washington, Alec Baldwin, K-pop star SuperM and Kris Jenner are scheduled to appear during premiere week.

Kristen Bell, Jason Sudeikis, Ken Jeong and The Social Dilemma's Tristan Harris are the latest slate of stars booked for the fall. Previously announced guests include Blake Shelton, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Amy Schumer and Orlando Bloom.

Stephen "tWitch" Boss is also set to guest host upcoming episodes with Dancing with the Stars judge Derek Hough as one of the interviewees.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show airs on NBC (check local listings).

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