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BuzzFeed Reporter On 'Ellen Show' Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct, Harassment

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, HOST:

Another week, another revelation involving accusations against a major media outfit - in this case, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." The daytime talk show is under investigation by its parent company, WarnerMedia, after allegations first published in BuzzFeed News. "The DeGeneres Show" is a feel-good hour each day. These accusations are not, comprising claims of racism, intimidation and multiple allegations that senior executives groped and sexually harassed junior colleagues.

Ellen DeGeneres has apologized, saying she'll take a more active role in running the show. BuzzFeed News, which first broke the story, spoke to 36 former employees. We invited the reporter who did so to join us. Here's BuzzFeed News's Krystie Lee Yandoli to tell us more. Krystie Lee Yandoli, welcome.

KRYSTIE LEE YANDOLI: Thanks so much for having me.

FOLKENFLIK: Krystie Lee, can you start by describing some of the allegations against the top executives of the show?

YANDOLI: Sure. I spoke to 36 former employees who described an environment on the show of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. Former employees said that this culture started with executive producer Ed Glavin - that he would touch them inappropriately in the control room and make them feel uncomfortable, that generally he led with fear and intimidation.

Former employees also told me that head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman groped them, touched them inappropriately and made sexually explicit comments in the office and at office parties as well as a former employee who told me that executive producer John Norman groomed him over a period of time and then also made an unwanted sexual advance on him.

FOLKENFLIK: What did these executives say in response to these allegations?

YANDOLI: Ed Glavin has not responded to our request for comment. Nor have we seen him comment at all. And Warner Brothers and WarnerMedia had no comment and declined to comment when we reached them. Head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman categorically denied any kind of allegations against him. He said that he has never had a single HR or interpersonal complaint made about him. John Norman also denied any allegations made against him to us in a statement after we published our story.

FOLKENFLIK: How did this culture evolve? And why have complaints gone unaddressed?

YANDOLI: A common thread in every single person I have spoken with is that they say there was no HR. They say that there was no HR present on set, on the show - that it was Warner Brothers HR but that that line of communication was not direct and was never made clear to them. And they also said that they did not feel comfortable because when these complaints would come up, they said that executive producers and senior-level producers would try to encourage them not to go to HR. So generally, they said there was a huge issue in regards to that.

FOLKENFLIK: It does seem one of the throughlines in a lot of these stories about the media is that when HR is not part of the equation, journalists often end up playing that role for them. In a letter to her staffers last week, Ellen DeGeneres said she relied on others to stay on top of day-to-day operations but added, my name is on the show and everything we do, and I take responsibility for that. How aware was she of what was happening on her set?

YANDOLI: So I have spoken to a number of former employees who worked at the show for a long time, a number of years, and who were in rooms with DeGeneres and who spent time with her on set and said that they find it very, very hard to believe that the talk show host was not aware to some degree and to some level of what goes on.

Also, though, I've spoken to people who say DeGeneres doesn't spend a lot of time on set and does - is - may not be fully aware of the entire spectrum of the culture because she's not there a lot, which they also think is a problem, and because they say executive producers kind of insulated her - which, again, they also saw as a problem.

FOLKENFLIK: You cover entertainment for BuzzFeed News. How - this is not an unfamiliar question in recent years, sadly, but how do you reconcile, you know, what we know as this person who brings joy to so many millions of Americans and who seems so buoyant herself and human and the nature of the culture of the show that bears her name, at least as evidenced by the reporting you've done in recent weeks?

YANDOLI: So I think that is a huge part of this story for viewers of "The Ellen Show" and for former and current employees, is that Ellen profits and has built an entire brand around the be kind messaging that former and current employees say does not match up with their personal experiences on the show and, in fact, preaches quite - you know, they've experienced quite the opposite.

You know, it's surprising to people. I think obviously these allegations would be shocking against any show. However, I think it stings a little harder to viewers and to employees who had to work in that environment.

FOLKENFLIK: That was Krystie Lee Yandoli. She's an entertainment news reporter at BuzzFeed News.

Krystie Lee, thanks so much for joining us.

YANDOLI: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.