After speedrunning through career crises this year, Ellen DeGeneres announced that she tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. “Fortunately, I’m feeling fine right now. Anyone who has been in close contact with me has been notified,” she wrote in a message posted to Twitter. The Ellen Show had been housing in-studio guests, along with 40 distanced audience members. In her note, DeGeneres implied that the show won’t film again until after the holidays.
Maybe it’s a bit of fortuitous timing for Ellen Show staffers. On Wednesday night, BuzzFeed News reported that the show’s been having an increasingly hard time netting advertisers, sponsors, A-list guests, and routinely high ratings during what’s usually their busy season. Top talent agents are reportedly avoiding the show, following widespread allegations of sexual harassment and workplace toxicity among top staffers. One publicist told BuzzFeed that they basically aren’t letting any clients touch Ellen with a ten foot pole:
“I wouldn’t set up anyone on her show right now to do anything that could possibly cause them more negative headlines...You have to tread so carefully with your clients and your clients’ reputations, so you don't want to put your client in any line of fire sympathizing with someone that any community or anyone would feel bad about. We’re not going to align anyone with Ellen.”
The allegations were pervasive and severe enough to warrant this degree of blowback. Dozens of current and former staffers told BuzzFeed over the summer that several of the show’s top producers and writers fostered an environment rife with intimidation, bullying, racist barbs, and sexual harassment. Although DeGeneres wasn’t directly implicated in any of the worst behavior, numerous staffers echoed that she “knows shit goes on, but also she doesn’t want to hear it.”
DeGeneres recently took home her 10th consecutive People’s Choice Award, thanking her staff and fans for sticking by her during an increasingly turbulent year. Her fans are still around in more or less the same capacity, but the dents in her empire are starting to show.