Ellen's Former DJ Breaks His Silence

As The Ellen DeGeneres Show is under investigation over accusations of a toxic workplace culture, one prominent former cast member has finally come out with his thoughts. So far, much of the reporting about the daytime talk show's behind-the-scenes culture has come from anonymous sources. BuzzFeed's bombshell piece came from interviews with one current and 10 former employees, all of whom chose to remain anonymous. Stars like Katy Perry, Jerry O'Connell, and DeGeneres' wife Portia de Rossi have since come out to defend DeGeneres (via Newsweek). 

Perry took to Twitter to share her experience, writing, "I know I can't speak for anyone else's experience besides my own but I want to acknowledge that I have only ever had positive takeaways from my time with Ellen & on the @theellenshow. I think we all have witnessed the light & continual fight for equality that she has brought."

Meanwhile, like de Rossi, O'Connell shared a simple message on Twitter that he stands by Ellen, and wrote, "Love @TheEllenShow & @portiaderossi Always have. Always will."

However, as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom noted on Twitter, celebrities get very different treatment on talk shows than employees do. Now that the show's former DJ is speaking out about his experiences, doors might be opening for other Ellen staff to go on the record, especially as the staff goes back to work on production this week (via Us Weekly).

DJ Tony speaks out about his time on Ellen

Tony Okungbowa helmed the DJ Booth on The Ellen DeGeneres Show over the course of ten years, where he was known as DJ Tony (via People). He left in 2013, and now stars in the CBS sitcom Bob Hearts Abishola. On Wednesday, August 4, Okungbowa posted a throwback photo of his DJ days on Instagram, with a caption addressing the current controversy. 

"Hey Guys, I hope you are all keeping safe out there during these trying times," he began his message. "I have been getting calls asking me about the Ellen Degeneres Show and I would like to address the time I spent there. I was on air talent from 2003-2006 and from 2007-2013. While I am grateful for the opportunity it afforded me, I did experience and feel the toxicity of the environment and I stand with my former colleagues in their quest to create a healthier and more inclusive workplace as the show moves forward," Okungbowa wrote.

While one fan commented asking whether the abuse had come from DeGeneres herself, Okungbowa didn't reply. Most commenters applauded Okungbowa's honesty, but at least one admitted feeling shocked by his statement. 

Toxicity allegedly ran rampant behind the scenes of The Ellen DeGeneres Show

The BuzzFeed report included alleged abuse and racism toward staff, including a joke from a senior producer that two Black people looked alike simply because they had similar hairstyles. Earlier this year, the show came under fire for failing to communicate to its staff how and whether they would be paid during the coronavirus pandemic (via Variety). Then, in a second shocking report, it was alleged by 36 former staffers that sexual misconduct also took place behind the scenes on the show. While no one has directly accused DeGeneres of perpetrating this unacceptable behavior, many feel she should have known what was going on. And, others are chastising her for promoting kindness to the cameras, with such turmoil going on for staffers.

Meanwhile, as stars like Perry and O'Connell come to DeGeneres' defense — Kevin Hart also notably stands behind the host, having shared this message in part on Instagram: "She has treated my family and my team with love and respect from day 1...The internet has become a crazy world of negativity" — other celebrities are speaking out against her (via ET).

Other celebrities speak out against and in support of DeGeneres

The first big name to support the notion that DeGeneres isn't as kind as her audience has come to believe is Brad Garrett, who appeared on the show at least six times over the course of his career. "Sorry but it comes from the top ⁦@TheEllenShow Know more than one who were treated horribly by her.⁩ Common knowledge," the actor shared on Twitter as a reaction to her recent and widely-criticized apology letter to her staff (via People). (Many people felt her apology didn't go far enough in accepting responsibility). Actress Lea Thompson corroborated Garrett's account, simply writing on Twitter, "True story. It is" (via Fox News).

More celebrities are starting to take sides, with Jay Leno most recently tweeting out his support for the beleaguered star. "I don't discard a 40-year friendship on hearsay. The Ellen I know has raised over $125 million dollars for charity and has always been a kind and decent person. I fully support her" he said in a post on August 4. According to Forbes, stars like Ashton Kutcher, singer Tyrese Gibson, and former American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe — remember, she worked on that show, too — support her. Lythgoe recently tweeted, "Having worked with Ellen DeGeneres on several occasions I can only say I have never seen her mistreat or embarrass anyone. It appears some people are starting to enjoy Witch hunts again."

We expect more voices will add to the conversation soon.