Perhaps no celebrity in modern history has undergone such an abrupt reassessment as Ellen DeGeneres – and that’s saying a lot.
Just a few short months ago, Ellen was regarded as TV’s most ebullient do-gooder – a ray or sunshine in a world where cynicism and sarcasm reign supreme.
These days, she’s viewed by many as one of Hollywood’s greatest villains.
That may sound hyperbolic, but the allegations against her are made all the more unforgivable by the fact that Ellen concealed her dark side so effectively.
Numerous employees and former employees have come forward over the past few months to complain about the toxic work environment on the set of Ellen’s wildly popular daytime talk show.
The situation has escalated to the point where it is currently under investigation by DeGeneres’ bosses at Telepictures and Warner, and new allegations continue to surface on a daily basis.
Now, shocking new claims about sexual harassment on set make it seem almost inevitable that Ellen’s show will get canceled in order to ensure that no further abuse is allowed to take place on set.
The latest allegations are aimed at Kevin Leman, Ellen’s longtime executive producer and head writer.
According to a shocking new report from BuzzFeed, Leman groped employees and made inappropriate remarks about their appearances on a regular basis, and his behavior went unchecked for years.
One former employee says Leman asked him if he would perform oral sex in the bathroom at a company party in 2013.
Another says the executive frequently made cringe-worthy comments on the bulges in male employees’ pants.
BuzzFeed spoke with “nearly a dozen” former employees who confirmed that it was not uncommon to see Leman grope male staffers and ask inappropriate questions like, “Are you a top or a bottom?”
“It’s masked in sarcasm, but it’s not sarcasm,” one former employee told the outlet
“He’d probably do it in front of 10 people and they’d laugh because ‘it’s just Kevin being Kevin,’ but if you’re in a position of power at a company, you don’t just get to touch me like that,” another said.
Leman has issued a statement in which he categorically denies any wrongdoing:
“I started at the Ellen Show as a PA more than 17 years ago and have devoted my career to work my way to the position I now hold,” he wrote.
“While my job as head writer is to come up with jokes – and, during that process, we can occasionally push the envelope.”
“I’m horrified that some of my attempts at humor may have caused offense,” Leman continued.
“I have always aimed to treat everyone on the staff with kindness, inclusivity and respect,” he added.
“In my whole time on the show, to my knowledge, I’ve never had a single HR or inter-personal complaint made about me.”
“I am devastated beyond belief that this kind of malicious and misleading article could be published.”
Leman, of course, is not the only top-level staffer at Ellen’s show to be accused of harassment and inappropriate conduct.
According to BuzzFeed, numerous former employees claimed that producer Ed Glavin “had a reputation for being handsy with women.”
And not even discreetly, at that – making you wonder how many people were aware of this and did nothing about it.
“That was out in the open for everybody to see,” one female employee, told BuzzFeed.
“You could definitely see the creep factor and the creepy touching.”
“Obviously, no one wants that and no one wants to be uncomfortably touched by someone … but you didn’t want to piss them off or you would be fired, so it was just that culture of fear.”
Employees say they had no one to turn to, as there was no formal process to confidentially file complaints.
“There was no such thing as a confidential conversation,” a former employee said.
“There was no clear direction that if something happens to you, you go to this person, it will remain confidential, and you will not be retaliated against.”
As for Ellen’s personal involvement, ex-staffers say there’s zero doubt that she was aware of the behavior and chose to turn a blind eye to it.
“She knows,” one former employee said. “She knows shit goes on, but also she doesn’t want to hear it.”
In addition to the investigation that has already resulted in major staff restructuring, Ellen has to contend with another obstacle these days – declining ratings.
According to a new report from UK tabloid The Sun, ratings for DeGeneres’ talk show have plummeted to record lows, dropping 14 percent in the past two weeks alone.
It seems that the main driver behind this decline is not the allegations of abuse from Ellen’s staff, but the reports of rudeness and bullying from the 62-year-old host herself.
Earlier this week, comedian Kevin Porter went viral with a tweet in which he asked his followers to recount incidents in which Ellen had ignored or dismissed them, or otherwise behaved rudely.
The results of that experiment were not good. Or, at this point, surprising.
“She’s notoriously one of the meanest people alive,” Porter wrote.
“Is she always nice? No,” one former employee told The Sun.
“It irritates me that people think she’s all sweetness and light and she gets away with it.”
Well, from the way this situation is developing, it seems she won’t be getting away with it much longer.
We’ll have further updates on this developing story as more information becomes available.