Australian radio presenter Neil Breen has spoken about his “bizarre” encounter with American talk show host Ellen Degeneres during her appearance on Australia’s Today show in 2013.
Breen, who now hosts a 4BC radio show, told his listeners that Degeneres was originally supposed to co-host the show while she was on a promotional tour Down Under but the plan changed to a sit down interview instead with his colleague Richard Wilkins.
Breen described his experience with Degenere’s producers who allegedly said to him “this is how it's going to work here.”
He recalled how he was told, “No one is to talk to Ellen. You don’t talk to her, you don’t approach her, you don’t look at her. She’ll come in, she’ll sit down, she’ll talk to Richard and then Ellen will leave.”
Breen said that he was shocked by the producers’ attitudes and shared his response, “I sort of said, ‘Are you fair dinkum? I can’t look at her?’
He also said that the producers giggled and laughed at everything Degeneres said throughout the interview and he had to ask them to be quiet.
“I’m not blaming Ellen, because I didn’t get to talk to her because I wasn’t allowed to, so I don’t know if she’s a nice person or not, I wouldn’t have a clue,” he continued. “But I can tell you, the people who worked with her walked on eggshells the whole time and the whole thing was totally bizarre.”
Breen’s testimony follows reports that WarnerMedia, the producers of the Ellen Show, have launched an internal investigation into the workplace culture following allegations from current and former staff about racism and bullying on set.
According to a Buzzfeed article, which interviewed one current and ten former employees, it is alleged that employees were fired for reasons such as taking medical leave and attending family funerals.
One employee said she eventually quit after getting fed up with comments about her race, while others said they were told to “not speak to Degeneres” if they saw her around the office.
While most of those who were interviewed blamed senior producers and management for the toxic work environment, one former employee said that Degeneres herself, “really needs to take more responsibility” for the workplace environment.
Executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner said in a joint statement to Buzzfeed News that they take these allegations “very seriously.”
"We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us.”