Since BuzzFeed News' first investigation of the alleged toxic work culture fostered at The Ellen DeGeneres Show, WarnerMedia, which owns Ellen parent company Warner Bros. Television, has launched an official investigation into the claims and host Ellen DeGeneres issued an apologetic letter to staff.
But in a new BuzzFeed News report published late on 30th July, dozens of men and women who have worked behind the camera at Ellen detailed allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, particularly at the hands of powerful men like head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman, executive producer Ed Glavin, and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman.
Nearly a dozen former Ellen employees characterised head writer Leman as someone who would make sexual and lewd comments to employees that were "masked in sarcasm," like pointing out colleagues' bulges or asking them if they were "top or bottom." Two other former employees alleged they saw Leman grope production assistants, and another claimed that in 2013 Leman asked him to perform oral sex in a bathroom at a company party. According to BuzzFeed, these allegations were corroborated by 36 former employees, who chose to remain anonymous out of fear.
In a statement, Leman defended himself and denied the allegations in what he calls the "malicious and misleading" article, and said that some of his comments were his "attempts at humour."
All 47 ex-Ellen staffers who spoke to BuzzFeed claimed executive producer Glavin was someone who exerted his power through "fear and intimidation," and dozens said he “had a reputation for being handsy with women." Especially in the control room, he'd reportedly touch women inappropriately — "creepy touching" that involved putting his arm around their shoulders and waists — in front of other colleagues.
One former employee even admitting to having the confusing feeling of needing validation so badly due to the toxic and stressful environment at work, even it was delivered in an unwanted manner. “Even though I was being abused [at work] constantly, Ed putting his arm around you in the control room was like the nicest experience you had all day, as messed up as that sounds,” she told BuzzFeed News. “But you had been crying last night and now your segment is going well … and then you feel like you got credit for something from the executive producer directly. … That friendly banter accompanied by a friendly hand.”
Other employees talked about Glavin's inappropriate "power moves" and tactics, like reportedly flipping over a desk, using a button at his desk to close his office door, or keeping the door to his in-office shower open. Glavin has yet to respond to the allegations.
Another former Ellen employee alleged that over time, co-executive producer Norman "groomed him" by taking him to events and later attempted to perform oral sex on him. The employee described being vulnerable as it was his and some of his colleagues' first jobs out of school and had never been subjected to this kind of "toxic work environment."
In a statement, Norman said he is "100% categorically denying these allegations" and accused the ex-employee who spoke out as someone who "has ulterior motives for bringing down the show and has been acting with malice towards the show."
As these allegations have continued to surface, many have been looking at DeGeneres to take responsibility as head of the show. In her letter to staff, she apologised, saying that her show was somewhere where she had hoped “everyone would be treated with respect." But a few former employees, including one at Warner Bros., said that they believe that the Ellen parent company not only “turns a blind eye” to allegations such as these because the show is so profitable, but DeGeneres herself "doesn't want to know" what happens behind the camera and top-level staff try to "insulate" her from any unsettling details.
Refinery29 reached out to Leman, Glavin, Norman, Warner Bros. Television, as well as DeGeneres for comment.