Ellen DeGeneres Addresses Controversy in Season 18 Premiere: 'She Didn't Hold Anything Back,' Source Says
Ellen DeGeneres "knows that it's on her to make sure everyone feels like they're being heard and valued," a source tells PEOPLE
On Monday, DeGeneres returned to the set of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where she addressed allegations of workplace toxicity in a six-minute opening monologue and also poked fun at rumors and claims surrounding her behavior — including not wanting to be looked at or allowing staff to chew gum.
"So I'm excited to see, obviously tWitch. I'm excited to see all of my staff and my crew. Hi everybody," said DeGeneres, 62, who also announced during the show that Stephen "tWitch" Boss had been promoted from show DJ to co-executive producer.
"Please don't look me in the eye," she quipped. "Oh, I'm kidding. But I will be passing out gum for everyone," DeGeneres said with a laugh. "Kidding again."
Ellentube.com Ellen DeGeneres
"Oh, I can laugh now," she added in the footage, captured by Us Weekly, as she proceeded to fake cry.
Although there were no in-studio attendees due to COVID-19 precautions, DeGeneres spoke to fans who appeared virtually on screens situated in the audience.
"As you may have heard, this summer there were accusations of a toxic work environment at our show, and then there was an investigation," she said. "I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously, and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected."
She continued by acknowledging that she's in a "position of privilege and power," taking responsibility for what happens behind the scenes on Ellen. DeGeneres added that the team is "starting a new chapter" after making "necessary changes" to resolve workplace problems.
DeGeneres also tackled criticisms that she doesn't live up to her upbeat television personality, which she dubbed the "Be Kind Lady," referring to her slogan, "Be kind to one another."
"Being known as the 'Be Kind Lady' is a tricky position to be in," she said. "... 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," DeGeneres concluded.
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros. Ellen DeGeneres
The premiere comes after WarnerMedia conducted an internal investigation into The Ellen DeGeneres Show following numerous complaints of workplace toxicity.
In July, BuzzFeed News published a report in which current and former staffers spoke anonymously about their experiences on set, which included 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. Staffers on the show also recently learned that they will now receive increased benefits.
During an emotional video conference with staff last month, DeGeneres admitted that she "wasn't perfect," a source who was on the call told PEOPLE at the time.
"I'm a multi-layered person, and I try to be the best person I can be and I try to learn from my mistakes," she said. "I'm hearing that some people felt that I wasn't kind or too short with them, or too impatient. I apologize to anybody if I've hurt your feelings in any way."