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Ellen DeGeneres Admits Struggles With “Be Kind” Persona in First Show Since Toxic Work Environment Reports

For the 18th season premiere of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, host Ellen DeGeneres returned to the studio for the first time since reports of a toxic production environment at the show.* In her monologue, the host offered a lengthy apology to “people who were affected” by what former employees told BuzzFeed News was a workplace rife with “racism, fear and intimidation,” including staff members being fired after taking medical leave or missing work to attend family funerals and a Black staffer being told by a then–executive producer that she walked around “looking resentful and angry.” After initially attempting to distance herself from the claims, DeGeneres finally apologized to her staff a week after Warner Bros. Television announced it would open up an investigation that would see three top producers fired.

DeGeneres’ most recent apology on Monday walks a fine line between those two modes, accepting that she is ultimately responsible for what happens on her show while simultaneously doubling down on her previous statements that this summer was the first time she “learned that things happened here that never should have happened.” In front of a live virtual audience projected on giant screens, she went on to address rumors that her “be kind” persona is nothing more than that, saying that “being known as the Be Kind lady is a tricky position to be in.” She continued:

Let me give you some advice out there, if anybody is thinking of changing their title or giving yourself a nickname, do not go with the “Be Kind” lady. The truth is, I am that person you see on TV. I am also a lot of other things. Sometimes I get sad. I get mad. I get anxious. I get frustrated. I get impatient, and I am working on all of that. I am a work in progress and I’m especially working on the impatience thing and it’s not going well, because it’s not happening fast enough […]

I’m a talk show host and you know that, but maybe some of you know that I was an actress. I’ve played a straight woman in movies, so I’m a pretty good actress, but I don’t think that I’m that good that I could come out here every day for 17 years and fool you. This is me. And my intention is to always be the best person I can be. And if I’ve ever let someone down, if I’ve ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that.