BuzzFeed News released a new report alleging top producers at The Ellen DeGeneres Show engaged in “rampant sexual misconduct” hours after Ellen DeGeneres broke her silence amid claims of a “toxic” work environment.
In the article “Dozens of Former Ellen Show Employees Say Executive Producers Engaged in Rampant Sexual Misconduct and Harassment,” reporter Krystie Lee Yandoli spoke to 36 former Ellen employees, many of whom “independently corroborated incidents of harassment, sexual misconduct and assault from top producers on the show.”
Former staffers alleged that senior executives, who work behind the scenes, groped and kissed employees and solicited one of them for oral sex.
Nearly a dozen former employees said it was common for Kevin Leman, the show’s head writer and executive producer, to make sexually explicit comments in the office. Another described seeing Leman grab the penis of a production assistant, and yet another alleged Leman requested a handjob and oral sex from him in a bathroom during a company party in 2013.
“It’s masked in sarcasm, but it’s not sarcasm,” a former employee said.
According to the bombshell report, “Many of [Leman’s] targets were lower-level and younger employees who felt they lacked any power to speak up.”
“He’d probably do it in front of 10 people and they’d laugh because ‘It’s just Kevin being Kevin,'” a former employee said, “but if you’re in a position of power at a company, you don’t just get to touch me like that.”
Leman responded to the shocking allegations by forcefully denying “any kind of sexual impropriety.”
“I started at the Ellen Show as a PA more than 17 years ago and have devoted my career to work my way to the position I now hold,” he told BuzzFeed in a statement. “While my job as head writer is to come up with jokes — and, during that process, we can occasionally push the envelope — I’m horrified that some of my attempts at humor may have caused offense.”
He continued, “I have always aimed to treat everyone on the staff with kindness, inclusivity and respect. In my whole time on the show, to my knowledge, I’ve never had a single HR or inter-personal complaint made about me, and I am devastated beyond belief that this kind of malicious and misleading article could be published.”
In Touch reached out to Ellen DeGeneres for comment but did not hear back at the time of publication.
If you or anyone you know has been sexually abused, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). A trained staff member will provide confidential, judgment-free support as well as local resources to assist in healing, recovering and more.