During an appearance on Busy Philipps‘ podcast, Busy Philipps Is Doing Her Best, O’Donnell, 58, said she feels “compassion” for DeGeneres, 62, following numerous complaints of workplace toxicity related to her Emmy-winning program.
“You can’t fake your essence,” said O’Donnell, who hosted her own daytime talk show from 1996 to 2002. “That’s why I have compassion for Ellen, right? I have compassion, even though, you know, I hear the stories and I understand. I think she has some social awkwardness.”
She added, “I think that from knowing her for so many years, I have my own kind of history with her.”
In July, BuzzFeed News published a report in which previous employees alleged a “toxic work environment” behind the scenes of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. One current and 10 former staffers spoke anonymously about their experiences on set, including claims of being penalized for taking medical leave, instances of racial microaggressions and fear of retribution for raising complaints.
DeGeneres has since apologized to her staff, and three top producers — Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman and Jonathan Norman — have parted ways with the show following an internal investigation by WarnerMedia. Staffers on the show also recently learned that they will now receive increased benefits.
O’Donnell isn’t the only star to speak out in support of DeGeneres. Other famous friends of the talk show host have come to her defense, including Katy Perry, who wrote a note of support for her pal on Instagram, and Kevin Hart, who recently said knows how “lonely” it can get “when people just turn their back on you.”
“So for the ones that you love, that are close to your heart, you just want them to have some support when it seems that there is none out there, and that’s just who I am as a person,” he told Deadline.
Meanwhile, former Ellen Show DJ Tony Okungbowa has said he “did experience and feel the toxicity of the environment” while working on the series for several seasons, and actor Brad Garrett also spoke out against DeGeneres on Twitter when the news first made headlines.
“Know more than one who were treated horribly by her,” he claimed. “Common knowledge.”
Later in her chat with Philipps, O’Donnell also revealed why she hasn’t appeared as a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“You know how Ellen surprises everyone?” she asked. “I’ve never done that show because I’m terrified she’s going to scare me and give me a heart attack.”
O’Donnell then touched upon what it’s actually like hosting a talk show, asserting that it isn’t like “anything close to real life.”
“You know, you get mass adulation from the multitudes every day, like a shot of heroin in your arm,” she said. “You get people clapping at your very existence and then telling you how you altered their life, and it’s a lot to take in. And when I stepped away, I knew that this was all I could take.”
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