Hours after Ellen Degeneres issued a mea culpa for the reportedly toxic work environment on her show, BuzzFeed News released a new report alleging that top producers at The Ellen DeGeneres Show engaged in sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. In the article “Dozens Of Former ‘Ellen Show’ Employees Say Executive Producers Engaged In Rampant Sexual Misconduct And Harassment,” reporter Krystie Lee Yandoli spoke to 36 former Ellen employees, many of whom “independently corroborated incidents of harassment, sexual misconduct, and assault from top producers on the show.” The article is a direct response to BuzzFeed’s previous reporting on The Ellen Show, in which 11 Ellen employees said they experienced racism, fear, and intimidation.
In the detailed report, a former employee said that head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman solicited him for oral sex. Others maintained that they saw Leman grope and kiss employees, and almost a dozen said that he often made sexually explicit comments. Regarding executive producer Ed Glavin, five former employees said that he touched them inappropriately, while dozens said he was known for “being handsy with women.” All 47 sources said that he led with intimidation and fear. As for co-executive producer Jonathan Norman, a former employee said Norman groomed him before trying to perform oral sex on him. In a statement, Norman denies the allegations, saying “I have never had a single complaint against me in my career. I have never ‘groomed’ anyone. I have never done anything to harm another staff member.”
Ellen Degeneres’s knowledge of this alleged misconduct remains unclear. While some interviewed said Ellen has very little idea of what goes on behind the scenes of her own show and is “insulated” by producers, others think that cannot possibly be true. “She knows,” said one former employee. “She knows shit goes on, but also she doesn’t want to hear it.”
Update, Friday, July 31, 7:40 a.m.: In a statement provided to BuzzFeed following publication, Kevin Leman denied “any kind of sexual impropriety,” calling his behavior “attempts at humor,” although many employees accused him of inappropriate touching in addition to explicit comments. “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,” he said. “I have always aimed to treat everyone on the staff with kindness, inclusivity and respect. In my whole time on the show, to my knowledge, I’ve never had a single HR or inter-personal complaint made about me, and I am devastated beyond belief that this kind of malicious and misleading article could be published.” Warner Bros. declined to comment on the story, citing an ongoing internal investigation that was launched after the Ellen workplace was accused of racism and intimidation earlier this month.