Ellen DeGeneres, a star of daytime American talk show culture, on Wednesday said she was calling it quits after 19 seasons anchoring a TV staple that had become tainted by toxic workplace allegations.
The 63-year-old host, writer, producer, actress and comedian won dozens of Emmy awards for the show and has been a pioneer of the LGBTQ community in the United States since she came out as gay in 1997.
Her trailblazing revelation — made by DeGeneres’s character in a sitcom named after her — shocked America and nearly derailed her career.
On Wednesday she insisted her decision to bring the curtain down on her afternoon show had nothing to do with allegations in the past year of a workplace environment rife with bullying, racial discrimination and sexual harassment.
Former and current staffers alleged that “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” has been a torrid place to work. It has also been hit by slumping ratings.
“When you’re a creative person, you constantly need to be challenged. And as great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge anymore,” DeGeneres told The Hollywood Reporter trade publication.
When the complaints from people working on the show came out last summer, DeGeneres acknowledged there were problems, apologized and pledged to do better.
DeGeneres herself was not accused of wrongdoing but three senior producers were fired.
Things got worse for her when the actor Brad Garrett, who appeared on her show six times, tweeted last August: “Sorry but it comes from the top @TheEllenShow Know more than one who were treated horribly by her. Common knowledge.”
DeGeneres — who built her brand on the motto “Be Kind” — addressed the fallout from the allegations on Wednesday.
“It was very hurtful to me. I mean, very,” Ellen told the trade publication.
“But if I was quitting the show because of that, I wouldn’t have come back this season. So, it’s not why I’m stopping.“
“All I cared about was spreading kindness and compassion, and everything I stand for was being attacked. So, it destroyed me, honestly.“
DeGeneres, who is married to actress Portia de Rossi, is believed to have been considering ending the show for several years.
Since September, the show’s ratings have plummeted by more than one-half compared to last season, to 1.2 million viewers per show.
DeGeneres is scheduled to have Oprah Winfrey as a guest on her show on Thursday to talk about ending the program. The final episode is scheduled for the spring of 2022.
DeGeneres has been co-producer of her show and last year earned an estimated $84 million, largely thanks to the program.
That made her the 12th highest-paid celebrity in the world, according to Forbes magazine.
The show went on a brief hiatus when DeGeneres was diagnosed with Covid-19 in December.
“Definitely people have been saying, ‘Why don’t we just try to go a little longer?’ But 19 years is a long time to do anything,” she told the Hollywood Reporter.
“Every day I’m not super smiley, but my intention is never to hurt anyone.”