In July, BuzzFeed published two articles detailing allegations against executive producers and senior managers on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” including sexual misconduct and harassment in addition to “day-to-day toxicity.” While the allegations did not involve DeGeneres directly, one employee stated that she “really needs to take more responsibility” for the workplace culture. The host agreed with this sentiment in the Season 18 opener, aired in September, when she addressed Warner Bros. Television’s internal investigation and acknowledged her “position of privilege and power.” (As a result of the investigation, three of the show’s top producers were fired.)
DeGeneres maintained that she had been unaware of the incidents outlined in the reporting, describing the media coverage to Guthrie as “too orchestrated, too coordinated … for four months straight.” She said her guests — of which she has had more than 2,400 — often refer to the show as a “happy” environment, and added that she couldn’t have been aware of what each of her 200-plus employees experienced “unless I literally stayed here until the last person goes home at night.”
“My therapist is like, very few people go through such huge public humiliation twice in a lifetime,” DeGeneres continued. “She’s making me aware that I’m supposed to experience this for a bigger reason. How can I be an example for strength and perseverance and power if I give up and run away? It really is one of the reasons I came back. I worked really hard on myself.”
“And I also have to say, if nobody else is saying it,” she added, “it was interesting because I am a woman, and [the press] did feel very misogynistic.”
Over its 18 seasons, “Ellen” has aired more than 3,000 episodes and amassed 64 Daytime Emmys. The host has received honors including the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2012 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. She told Guthrie that making the talk show has been among the greatest experiences of her life, but noted that “I’m not bulletproof.”
“I’m extremely sensitive to the point of, it’s not healthy how sensitive I am,” DeGeneres said. “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.”
On Thursday’s episode of “Ellen,” DeGeneres thanked her audience “for watching, for dancing, sometimes crying.” She said she made the decision to end the show after talking it over with wife Portia de Rossi two years ago, when she signed a three-year contract.
“In 1997, I knew it was time to come out on my sitcom and live my truth,” DeGeneres said. “Back then, I had a vivid dream that a bird flew out of a cage and set itself free, because it needed to get out of that cage. Recently, I had a dream that a bird … came to my window and whispered, ‘You can still do stuff on Netflix.’ And that was the sign I was looking for.”
Talk of the allegations against former “Ellen” producers was absent from the conversation with Winfrey, who once hosted DeGeneres on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” after DeGeneres came out as gay (in an episode of her sitcom on which Winfrey also happened to appear, playing a therapist). The two have remained friends and discussed their shared emotional experience of ending a long-running talk show after connecting with audiences for years.
“It’s almost 10 years ago — it will be next week — when I was in this exact position,” Winfrey said. “I know what those feelings are. I also know the feelings leading up to it. … I didn’t even consider ‘The Oprah Show’ a job because it was just a part of my life, as I know it is for you. It’s an extension of yourself.”
DeGeneres agreed, noting that the talk show “is my life.” She said it was particularly difficult to share the news with her employees, and that she gave them a year’s notice so they could spend the time celebrating their achievements together. Winfrey responded that “when you have as large a staff as you do and I did, that staff becomes your family.”
“This is such a profound day,” Winfrey said. “You’re announcing that this legacy, this part of your life, is coming to end in a year. But you and everything you represent to the world, that lives on and will grow in a way that benefits you and anyone who comes into contact with you.”
This post has been updated.