Ellen DeGeneres should have considered laying off the jokes.
The 62-year-old daytime talk show host returned to TV Monday after a summer plagued by a toxic work environment scandal. During the show’s season premiere monologue, DeGeneres apologized for what occurred behind the scenes and promised viewers she’s the person “you see on TV.”
Mixed in with her apology, however, were sarcastic jokes about “terrific” her summer had been and how she was trying to work on her patience — or lack thereof. The result didn’t sit well with the former employees she’s accused of hurting.
“Not only did Ellen turn my trauma, turn our traumas, into a joke, she somehow managed to make this about her,” one former employee told BuzzFeed News.
“When she said, ‘Oh my summer was great’ and that was supposed to be funny I thought, ‘It’s funny that you had a rough summer because everyone was calling out all of the allegations of your toxic work environment and now you’re the one suffering?’” another former employee said.
Former employees also felt insulted by DeGeneres’ “inappropriate jokes” scattered throughout her monologue given people had come forward and leveled allegations of sexual misconduct against former producers.
“When you’re talking about people who have accused her leadership of the seriousness of sexual misconduct, I don’t think it’s appropriate to have jokes in the monologue,” a former employee told the outlet.
In her monologue, DeGeneres also quipped that people shouldn’t brand themselves the “be kind” person because it allows for little wiggle room, a joke that didn’t land with those who allegedly felt her wrath behind closed doors.
“I don’t feel sorry that she’s in a s–t load of trouble because she branded herself the ‘be kind’ person,” a former employee said. “She’s acting like it was something she said in passing that just stuck with her. It’s not something that stuck with her, it’s not an accident. She went forward with this idea and this marketing strategy that was not true behind the scenes.”
The former employee continued, “There’s nothing wrong with being the ‘be kind lady’ if you’re actually true to your word.”
Though former DeGeneres employees felt dissatisfied with her attempt at atonement, a current employee did find her monologue impressive.
“It’s kind of amazing that this is being discussed on her show,” the employee shared. “To actually go from an environment where nothing is said and everyone keeps their head down, to now when it’s the topic of her first show back is pretty amazing.
“Whether or not I believe in this message that she is saying is another issue.”
Sources close to the show told Page Six that the environment on set already feels different and the employees who are working for the show—there are more than 250—are happy to be back at work.
We’re also told that leading up to the premiere, DeGeneres held numerous Zoom chats with her employees to check in and make sure that they’re being heard and valued. She’s more “engaged than ever,” our sources said.
A rep for DeGeneres didn’t return Page Six’s request for comment.