Ellen DeGeneres framed herself as a victim and skated past allegations of fostering a toxic workplace on Thursday, while citing “creative” reasons for ending her long-running daytime show in interviews with Oprah Winfrey and TODAY‘s Savannah Guthrie.
She also insisted she is not ending the show because of her tanking ratings or the widespread backlash against her, which she characterized as “too orchestrated.”
“If it was why I was quitting, I would not have come back this year,” she told Guthrie on Thursday morning, echoing her words in an earlier interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
DeGeneres welcomed Winfrey onto her show for a friendly chat on Thursday, during which the pair discussed Ellen’s decision to end The Ellen DeGeneres Show after 19 seasons next year. DeGeneres also appeared earlier in the day on TODAY, which airs on the same NBC network as her own show.
She insisted in both interviews that she’s leaving her show because it’s not a creative “challenge” anymore. She also dismissed allegations that she was a toxic boss, didn’t address talk about her ratings and claimed that the backlash against her has been “misogynistic,” “orchestrated” and “coordinated.”
“I have to say — if nobody else was saying it — it was really interesting because I’m a woman, and it did feel very misogynistic,” she told Guthrie on TODAY. “It started with attacks on me and attacking everything that I stand for and believe in and built my career around.
“I am a kind person. I am a person who likes to make people happy.”
Winfrey, who is friends with DeGeneres, did not delve into the toxic workplace allegations in their chat on The Ellen Show. Instead, she hailed DeGeneres for deciding to wind down the show with a final season.
“I’m proud of you for trusting your instinct,” Oprah said. She also spoke at length about how TV hosts see their staff as “family.”
“I do love everyone here,” DeGeneres said, before citing them as the reason she is doing another season. “I wanted to give them a year,” she said.
Mike Darnell, president of unscripted TV at Warner Bros., confirmed the show’s demise in a statement earlier this week.
“Although all good things must come to an end, you still have to hope that truly great things never will,” he said.
DeGeneres launched her talk show in 2003 and built her personal brand as the “be kind lady,” with a show that focused on upbeat interviews, dancing and acts of kindness.
Many soured on her last year amid a string of damning reports about her behind-the-scenes behaviour, including a plan to slash staffers’ salaries at the start of the pandemic. The reports echoed some long-running claims that DeGeneres was notoriously two-faced and “mean” behind the scenes.
Several former employees told BuzzFeed last summer that they were fired for taking bereavement days or medical leave, and that they’d been instructed not to speak to DeGeneres or look her in the eye around the set. Current and former employees also alleged that they faced intimidation, racism and fear on a day-to-day basis under her.
In a separate report, dozens of men and women accused three producers on the show of sexual misconduct. Those producers were later fired.
DeGeneres lost one million regular viewers last fall after she offered an on-air apology for her summer of damning news headlines.
On Thursday, DeGeneres claimed that she had “no idea” that there were problems on her show until she read about it in the media. She also framed the response to the workplace allegations as personal attacks against her.
“I don’t know how I could have known when there’s 225 employees here and there are a lot of different buildings,” she told Guthrie. “Unless I actually stayed here until that last person goes home at night.”
She also cited the glowing reviews of her celebrity guests, whom she said would often praise the “happy atmosphere” on the show.
“When something is coming back at me that I know is not true, I guess I could take one or two of those shots, but four months in a row took a toll on me,” she told TODAY.
She added that she’s proud of her work on the show, and “proud of the people who work here who have stuck by me and who have supported me.”
DeGeneres’ show will end with the conclusion of her 19th season next year. Her contract with WarnerMedia also expires at that time.