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How Ellen DeGeneres’s Public Image Collapsed

The folks who work in Hollywood could always get a gig with the C.I.A. After all, who keeps secrets better than the folks in Tinsel Town? No, we’re not talking about what moldy franchise will be rebooted next. Think Harvey Weinstein, the producer whose vile behavior went on for decades without anyone blowing the whistle. And, as Bobcat Goldthwait and street artist Sabo declared after Weinstein’s downfall, “they knew.”

The same arc happened with Ellen DeGeneres, whose transgressions weren’t anywhere as serious as what sent Weinstein to the slammer. What’s interesting is why her show business façade finally crumbled.

“Be kind to one another”

DeGeneres’ daytime talk show perfectly aligned with the comic’s cuddly image. She wasn’t overtly political like Stephen Colbert nor abrasive in the Roseanne Barr mold.

She was … nice, sweet, gentle and a first-rate rib tickler. And she leaned into that persona five times a week on her syndicated show. Fans danced along with DeGeneres ever since she took the gig back in 2003.

“Be kind to one another,” she nudged her audience. Many listened.

The biggest stars made the pilgrimage to her studio knowing they could hawk their wares to a large, upbeat audience. And they did so for nearly two decades without much friction.

DeGeneres’ star grew bigger, brighter and she routinely found glory away from her couch, be it voicing Dory the forgetful fish in two Pixar blockbusters or hosting the Oscars, the Emmys and the Grammys.

All the while “Ellen” show staffers endured what many are now describing as a toxic work environment, where bullying, “micro-aggressions” and alleged sexual abuse took place.

Ellen’s progressive media shield cracks

The first sign of trouble came in 2019 when she extended a public kindness to fellow comic Kevin Hart.

The “Ride Along” star, like DeGeneres, leans hard into his sunny disposition. Apolitical to the core, Hart nevertheless got canceled after he landed the gig of a lifetime – Oscars host.

Kevin Hart visits "Sway In the Morning" on "Shade 45" with host Sway Calloway at SiriusXM Studios on May 22, 2019 in New York City.

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

The usual suspects “uncovered” homophobic jokes Hart told a decade ago, and within days he turned the gig down, clearly not by his choosing.

DeGeneres stood up for Hart, enraging the Far Left. Second chances matter, she said, and that should include a comic who no longer traffics in that kind of rhetoric. She predicted a Hart-led ceremony would feature “sophistication, class, hilarity and you growing as a person.”

Like J.K. Rowling, DeGeneres learned no matter how woke a star may be they’re never woke enough. The comic, who gently embraced LGBTQ rights on her show, lost part of her progressive media shield.

Her second “sin” proved far more egregious to the woke mob.

DeGeneres met, and chatted amiably with, former President George W. Bush during a football game. Remember, “Dubya” was America’s “Hitler” before President Donald Trump assumed the mantle in the eyes of select media outlets and Hollywood.

Bush has stayed mostly off the radar since ending his second term, fulfilling a role most presidents not named Obama play in their post-White House lives. That didn’t matter. The anti-DeGeneres backlash proved considerable.

DeGeneres, to her credit, didn’t go on any Apology TourTM.

“Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different, and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay that we’re all different.”

The far-left didn’t get that memo. And if they did they likely set it on fire.

How much this Dubya kerfuffle played into DeGeneres’ downfall is uncertain. The fact that it played some role, though, is beyond debate.

“One of the meanest people alive”

DeGeneres’ crisis officially began in March 2020 when comedian and podcaster Kevin T. Porter dubbed her “one of the meanest people alive” on Twitter and invited others to share their Ellen horror stories.

The timing for the superstar was less than perfect.

Like many celebrities, DeGeneres wasn’t at her best at the start of the pandemic, describing her gorgeous home as a quarantine “jail.”

Ellen DeGeneres during the FOX PRESENTS THE IHEART LIVING ROOM CONCERT FOR AMERICA, a music event to provide entertainment relief and support for Americans to help fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to celebrate the resilience and strength of the nation during this pandemic. The one-hour benefit special will air on Sunday, March 29, from 9:00-10:00 PM ET/6:00-7:00 PM PT on FOX, on iHeartMedia radio stations nationwide and via the iHeartRadio app. The benefit special will be broadcast commercial-free.(Photo by FOX via Getty Images)

FOX via Getty Images

Nor did she give her co-workers a sense of comfort about their pay and future work at the pandemic’s beginning. Her show, like many others, began shooting from her house, which left many “Ellen” staffers unsettled.

Team Ellen eventually attempted damage control, promising more clarity behind the scenes after a Variety article on the matter hit the web.

She couldn’t maneuver around what happened next, though.

July BuzzFeed story allowed several “Ellen” staffers to share why they hated working for the sweet/gentle/kind comedian. The story had disturbing elements, including racism accusations, but the complaints also could be viewed as the product of disgruntled ex-workers.

“Rampant” abuse

A second, more devastating story quickly followed. That article, with accusations of “rampant” sexual abuse, proved impossible to ignore.

We also read ex-workers claim DeGeneres wouldn’t let co-workers talk to her in the hallways.

That tiny fact, far less consequential than the other allegations, stuck a shiv in her “nice” persona for good.

It turns out DeGeneres’ nasty nature wasn’t a deep, dark secret. It was discussed routinely behind the scenes, which is why an emboldened Porter could send such a Tweet in the first place.

The biggest stars didn’t see the show’s nasty side. A Justin Timberlake or Cher wouldn’t be dressed down by Team Ellen in any capacity. Chances are, though, they heard the same whispers about the show’s problems.

So why did we have to wait years, and years, to find all this out? DeGeneres delivered to the Hollywood community. Her show earned robust ratings (or once did) and her couch chats paid dividends for a galaxy of stars.

Being an openly gay performer, and one who shattered a cultural ceiling by coming out on her previous sitcom, gave her a measure of cultural clout … and protection.

She genuinely broke barriers, not like some virtue-signaling peers, and the media loved her for it. Her co-workers? That’s a very different story, we learned.

Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton, Ellen DeGeneres, and Portia de Rossi during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Tip of the “open secret” iceberg in Hollywood?

The star’s crisis culminated in her ending her long-running talk show. DeGeneres announced the 19th season will be its last, but she added the decision wasn’t based on her show’s scandals. She claimed she made the move out of both exhaustion – the show’s production schedule is relentless – and the need to be creatively challenged again. She also mentioned possible movie projects along with spending more time promoting conservation and other pet causes.

We’ll never know how much her fall from grace led to the show’s end, but it’s hard to imagine it didn’t play a role despite her brave face.

More importantly, the public’s attachment to her sunny persona could be gone as well. She may have to reinvent her persona, her brand, for the next stage in her career.

The Weinstein and DeGeneres stories are likely the tip of the “open secret” iceberg in Hollywood. How did “Bohemian Rhapsody” director Bryan Singer stay employed for so long despite all the whispers surrounding his off-camera antics?

Why did uber-producer Scott Rudin get away with throwing everything within arm’s reach at underlings without being called out by industry titans? Director Barry Sonnenfeld shared some frightening Rudin stories in his 2020 autobiography, likely consumed by a coterie of Hollywood types.

Even when the dam broke on Rudin’s antics some Hollywood executives refused to throw him under the industry bus.

And let’s not forget the original Queen of Nice.

Rosie O’Donnell lorded over her own daytime talk show, chatting with the biggest stars with the biggest smile plastered on her face. She ooed and ahhed over Tom Cruise and played nice with everyone save Tom Selleck.

He supported those evil guns, so she let the mask drop during their uncomfortable exchange.

Years later we saw the real O’Donnell, and it had nothing to do with her hiding her sexuality. O’Donnell proved a shrieking, far-left partisan who sparked a lawsuit after leaving her self-titled magazine after an 18-month run.

Rosie O'Donnell attends "Russian Doll" Premiere at The Metrograph on January 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Netflix)

Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

The lawsuit in question called her a “combative, capricious partner who abused the magazine’s editor, terrorized employees and publicly disparaged G+J.”

O’Donnell later embraced 9/11 conspiracy theories and behaved so badly as co-host of “The View” she fled the show – twice.

Her “Queen of Nice” image took years to get debunked, but Hollywood players kept her secret for years.

It took nearly two decades for us to learn the behind-the-scenes truth about DeGeneres.

What “open secret” story will Hollywood unleash next?

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