Ellen DeGeneres Says Toxic Workplace Controversy 'Destroyed' Her — but Isn't Why She's Ending Show
Ellen DeGeneres announced Wednesday that her talk show will come to an end after the upcoming 19th season
In her interview with The Hollywood Reporter announcing the news, however, DeGeneres said the scandal was not the reason behind her decision to end the show.
The TV personality said she first considered ending the hit program after its 16th season but ended up signing a three-year contract instead, bringing her to the 19th and final season.
"We [settled] on three more years and I knew that would be my last. That's been the plan all along. And everybody kept saying, even when I signed, 'You know, that's going to be 19, don't you want to just go to 20? It's a good number.' So is 19," she said.
As for the toxic workplace allegations, which prompted an internal investigation last summer, DeGeneres said they "almost impacted the show."
"It was very hurtful to me," she said. "I mean, very. But if I was quitting the show because of that, I wouldn't have come back this season. So, it's not why I'm stopping but it was hard because I was sitting at home, it was summer, and I see a story that people have to chew gum before they talk to me and I'm like, 'Okay, this is hilarious.' Then I see another story of some other ridiculous thing and then it just didn't stop. And I wasn't working, so I had no platform, and I didn't want to address it on [Twitter] and I thought if I just don't address it, it's going to go away because it was all so stupid."
In July, BuzzFeed News published a report in which current and former staffers spoke anonymously about their experiences on set, which included claims of being penalized for taking medical leave, instances of racial microaggressions and fear of retribution for raising complaints.
Listen below to the episode of our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on Ellen DeGeneres' decision to end her talk show.
DeGeneres apologized to her staff at the time, and three top producers — Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman and Jonathan Norman — have parted ways with the show. Staffers on the show also received increased benefits.
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DeGeneres, who addressed the controversy with viewers during the season 18 premiere in September, told THR the situation "destroyed" her.
"With the talk show, all I cared about was spreading kindness and compassion and everything I stand for was being attacked," she said. "So, it destroyed me, honestly. I'd be lying if I said it didn't. And it makes me really sad that there's so much joy out there from negativity. It's a culture now where there are just mean people, and it's so foreign to me that people get joy out of that."
She continued, "Then, on the heels of it, there are allegations of a toxic workplace and, unfortunately, I learned that through the press. And at first I didn't believe it because I know how happy everybody is here and how every guest talks about, 'Man, you have a great place here. Of all the talk shows I've done, everyone here is so happy.' That's all I've ever heard."
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DeGeneres also said that following the investigation, she's made an effort to check in more with her staff.
"So, there was an internal investigation, obviously, and we learned some things but this culture we're living is [is one where] no one can make mistakes," she said. "And I don't want to generalize because there are some bad people out there and those people shouldn't work again but, in general, the culture today is one where you can't learn and grow, which is, as human beings, what we're here to do."
"And I can see people looking at that going, 'You don't care about what people [went through.]' I care tremendously," she added. "It broke my heart when I learned that people here had anything other than a fantastic experience — that people were hurt in any way. I check in now as much as I can through Zoom to different departments and I make sure people know that if there's ever a question or ever anything, they can come to me and I don't know why that was never considered before."
"I'm not a scary person," DeGeneres said. "I'm really easy to talk to. So, we've all learned from things that we didn't realize — or I didn't realize — were happening. I just want people to trust and know that I am who I appear to be."
Moving forward, DeGeneres said she'll be focusing on the causes she's passionate about, including animals and the environment, but also noted that she would "for sure" be open to returning to movies.
"If there were a great role, I'd be able to do that, which I'm not able to do now," she said.
DeGeneres will sit down with Oprah Winfrey to discuss her decision on Thursday's Ellen DeGeneres Show.