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Film and TV

Former Ellen DeGeneres Show staff accuse producers of sexual misconduct, grooming and harassment

Reiss Smith July 31, 2020
Ellen DeGeneres during a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Ellen DeGeneres during a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. (Getty/Brooks Kraft)

The Ellen DeGeneres Show set is rife with sexual harassment and is led with fear and menace, a number of former employees have alleged.

Three Ellen producers have between them been accused of groping and grooming junior staff members, asking employees for sex and creating an atmosphere of intimidation.

Kevin Leman, head writer and executive producer on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, has denied suggestions he accosted a staff member at a party, grabbed a production assistant’s genitals and made regular, sexually explicit comments in the workplace.

Nearly a dozen ex-employees across all levels of the show told BuzzFeed News that Leman employed a mask of sarcasm while allegedly targeting junior level and younger employees with sexually explicit comments and inappropriate behaviour.

One former staff member alleged Leman asked him “if he could give him a hand job or perform oral sex” in a bathroom during a 2013 staff party. Another told BuzzFeed they saw Leman grab at an assistant’s penis, while a third said she saw the executive “grope” an assistant in a car and kiss him on the neck.

It was also alleged Leman would ask male staff in the office “are you a top or a bottom?” and would point at their bulges.

One ex-staff member said he would “probably do it in front of 10 people and they’d laugh because ‘it’s just Kevin being Kevin'”.

Leman vehemently denied “any kind of sexual impropriety” and said he was “horrified” that his “attempts at humour may have caused offence”.

“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 said in a statement.

“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 humour may have caused offence.

“I have always aimed to treat everyone on the staff with kindness, inclusivity and respect.”

Leman said that during his 17 years on the show he has never been made aware of a single staff complaint about his behaviour.

‘Handsy’ Ellen producer allegedly flipped a table in front of staff.

The claims against Leman came from a wider investigation into an alleged culture of “harassment, sexual misconduct, and assault” perpetuated by senior Ellen DeGeneres Show staff.

Jonathan Norman, a co-executive producer, denied allegations he had “groomed” one former staff member with concert tickets and other perks before attempting to perform oral sex on him.

“I have never had a single complaint against me in my career,” he said.

“I have never ‘groomed’ anyone,” he said. “I have never done anything to harm another staff member. Ever. The person I believe you are referring to has ulterior motives for bringing down the show and has been acting with malice towards the show.”

Ed Glavin, another executive producer, allegedly “had a reputation for being handsy with women” in the control room. Five former Ellen staff claim he had touched them inappropriately, BuzzFeed said, in at least one case while in front of “nearly 30 other people”.

Glavin was also accused of employing “intimidation tactics”, in once case flipping a table and chair while screaming at an employee who had just handed in their notice.

Glavin has not publicly commented on these allegations and did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PinkNews.

More than 30 former Ellen employees made allegations against top-level producers.

BuzzFeed said it had received reports from 36 former Ellen employees, who all asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

Among the testimonies, there was no consensus on who is ultimately responsible for this allegedly toxic workplace culture.

Some claimed that a lack of a formal complaints procedure added to an accountability vacuum, and that they were dissuaded from going to the show’s parent company. One ex-employee claimed Warner Bros turned a “blind eye” to any alleged misconduct because the talk show is a “cash cow”.

Prior to the most recent claims, Warner Bros had already launched an investigation into claims The Ellen DeGeneres Show was “dominated by fear” following an earlier string of allegations.

Warner Bros released an update on this investigation shortly before BuzzFeed published its latest, Deadline reported.

“Though not all of the allegations were corroborated, we are disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management,” it read.

“We have identified several staffing changes, along with appropriate measures to address the issues that have been raised, and are taking the first steps to implement them.

“Warner Bros and Ellen DeGeneres are all committed to ensuring a workplace based on respect and inclusion. We are confident this course of action will lead us to the right way forward for the show.”

A representative for Warner Bros declined to comment on the latest allegations when approached by PinkNews.

DeGeneres reportedly wrote to staff on Thursday (July 30), before the BuzzFeed report, to apologise for the alleged toxic environment.

In a letter seen by Us Weekly, she admitted the show, as a workplace, was troubled, adding that she had not been “able to stay on top of everything “and “relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done”.

“Cleary some didn’t,” the letter read.

PinkNews has contacted representatives of Ellen DeGeneres for comment.

More: Ellen DeGeneres, ellen show

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