Ellen DeGeneres started the 18th season of her daytime talk show on Monday with a lengthy apology that addressed reports describing her as a boss who led a toxic workplace.
“If you’re watching because you love me, thank you,” Ms. DeGeneres said in her return from a summer hiatus. “And if you’re watching because you don’t love me, welcome.”
Dressed in a white blazer, jeans and her signature white sneakers, the host addressed the rows of seats filled with screens that featured virtual audience members. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, audience members are not permitted to enter her Burbank, Calif., studio.
“As you may have heard this summer, there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show,” Ms. DeGeneres said. “And then there was an investigation. I learned that things happen 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. I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power. And I realized that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.”
In July, BuzzFeed News reported that former employees of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” said they had experienced “racism, fear and intimidation” on the program and were fired after taking time off for medical leave or bereavement. A former Black employee said she was the victim of racist comments from staff members.
Warner Bros., the studio that distributes the syndicated program, and its subsidiary, Telepictures, started an internal investigation. In August, three high-level producers were let go: Ed Glavin, an executive producer; Jonathan Norman, a co-executive producer; and Kevin Leman, the head writer.
“The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which started in 2003, has been a boon to Warner Bros., which is part of AT&T’s WarnerMedia entertainment division. Last year, Ms. DeGeneres signed a contract to keep her at the program through 2022. She also signed a deal to make new shows for HBO Max, the WarnerMedia streaming service. In addition, Ms. DeGeneres is the host of a Warner Bros. game show, “Ellen’s Game of Games,” a prime-time mainstay for NBC.
During the monologue, which was posted on her show’s social media accounts, Ms. DeGeneres, 62, referred to “articles in the press and on social media that said that I am not who I appear to be on TV.”
“The truth is, I am that person that you see on TV,” she continued. “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.”
The on-air apology followed two apologies — one by email, the other during a videoconference — that she had made to her staff over the summer.
In her remarks on Monday, Ms. DeGeneres, one of the first television stars to announce that she was gay, also referenced how she had spent years of her career as an actress, often playing straight women.
“So, I’m a pretty good actress, but I don’t think that I’m that good that I could come out here every day for 17 years and fool you,” she said. “This is me. And my intention is to always be the best person I can be. And if I’ve ever let someone down, if I’ve ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that.”
Ms. DeGeneres introduced Stephen Laurel Boss, the DJ known as tWitch, and noted that he was now a co-executive producer on the show. After a brief chat with him, she told her virtual audience members that she was giving each of them a 65-inch television set. She then introduced her first guest of her new season, the actress Tiffany Haddish.