‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ made sense as a platform for Kevin Hart to rehabilitate his image last year after past homophobic tweets and jokes sparked outrage over his being named Oscars host. DeGeneres, who boasts a tightknit circle of A-list friends, had long positioned her talk show as a benign space for them to promote their work. Plus, as someone whose coming out as gay in the late 1990s was huge for the LGBTQ community, her advocating for Hart to get another chance would have weight to it.
Or so it seemed. While some viewers took DeGeneres’s plea to heart, others took issue with her dismissing the outrage as coming from “trolls” and “haters.” Her words acted primarily as a show of class solidarity, they said — a criticism that returned in October when she defended her friendship with former president George W. Bush by saying that her calls for kindness apply to those with different political views, too. (His views, many argued in response, promoted homophobia and launched a deadly war in Iraq.)
Now, as DeGeneres and her producers face accusations of fostering a toxic work environment, the celebrity brigade has returned to defend one of its own. Friends from Hart to Katy Perry have turned to social media to share positive experiences with DeGeneres, intending to shed light on her character. But once again, as with last fall, the endorsements haven’t helped her much. Critics ask: What could these celebrities, to whom DeGeneres has incentive to be nice, know about how she and her team treat their underlings?
Perry shared her support late Monday night: “I know I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience besides my own but I want to acknowledge that I have only ever had positive takeaways from my time with Ellen & on the @theellenshow,” she tweeted. “I think we all have witnessed the light & continual fight for equality that she has brought to the world through her platform for decades.” BuzzFeed News reporter Julia Reinstein tweeted an image of Perry’s tweet, crossing out everything after “besides my own” and describing the image as “a suggested edit if you’re ever thinking about putting out a statement about your positive personal relationship with someone embroiled in abuse allegations.”
Ashton Kutcher chimed in by tweeting that DeGeneres and her team had “only treated me & my team w/ respect & kindness,” and that she “never pandered to celebrity.” In response to a reply arguing that statements like Kutcher’s invalidated the negative experiences of DeGeneres’s employees, Kutcher wrote that he understood but then seemed to double down on his original assertion elsewhere in the thread.
DeGeneres’s wife, Portia de Rossi, and friend Jerry O’Connell both shared a graphic on Instagram reading, “I Stand By Ellen.” In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, O’Connell stated that he felt “compelled” to defend DeGeneres due to their decades-long friendship. Diane Keaton shared a photo from the “Ellen” show, writing in the caption that she had always enjoyed her visits. Alec Baldwin, also speaking to his experiences with DeGeneres and not her staff, tweeted that she “has always been kind to me.”
And in an apparent nod to “cancel culture,” as well as last year’s Oscars controversy, Hart wrote on Instagram that the internet “has become a crazy world of negativity....we are falling in love with peoples down fall.” Music executive Scooter Braun, no stranger to public scandal himself, tweeted in a similar manner: “People love to take shots at people. They love to see people fall.”
Replies to both Hart and Braun’s posts noted that BuzzFeed’s reporting and the discourse surrounding it were instead about holding the powerful accountable for their actions. (WarnerMedia launched an internal investigation into workplace culture at the “Ellen” show after the first BuzzFeed article published.)
As famous people continue to defend DeGeneres, it’s also worth noting that many who did so after she was photographed at the football game with Bush have remained silent this time around. Polo player Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras picked up on this and, in a post expressing support for DeGeneres, asked A-listers from Jennifer Aniston to Lady Gaga — to even Michelle Obama — to join him.
A few people in the industry have instead spoken up against DeGeneres. Actor Brad Garrett shared a Variety story about the host apologising to her staff: “Sorry but it comes from the top @TheEllenShow,” he tweeted. “Know more than one who were treated horribly by her. Common knowledge.” Actress Lea Thompson replied to a tweet about Garrett’s comment and called it a “true story.”
Tony Okungbowa, who appeared on the “Ellen” show for a decade as DJ Tony, wrote on Instagram that he had also experienced the “toxicity” of working in that environment. He then backed his former colleagues “in their quest to create a healthier and more inclusive workplace.”