Ellen DeGeneres offered a five-minute apology. What will it take for us to accept it?

Ellen DeGeneres is sorry. 

And not in the way most high-profile people tend to be (you know: the reluctant, hands-off kind of sorry that 'feelings have been hurt' or regret that the aggrieved 'feels that way').

Opening the eighteenth season of her eponymous talk show on Monday, the Emmy-winning host apologised for the unhealthy workplace culture that had evolved behind the scenes and for the role she played in that.

"As you may have heard, this summer there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show," she said. "I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously, and I want to say that I'm so sorry to the people who were affected."

Watch: Ellen apologises and concedes she's a "work in progress".

Video via YouTube/The Ellen DeGeneres Show

In a nearly five-minute monologue, DeGeneres observed every point on a 'how to apologise and mean it' checklist.

She took ownership: "I know that I'm in a position of privilege and power and I realise that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show." 

She expressed remorse: "If I've ever let someone down, if I've ever hurt their feelings, I'm so sorry for that. If that's every the case, I have let myself down."

She promised change: "We have had a lot of conversations over the last few weeks about the show, our workplace, and what we want for the future. We have made the necessary changes and, today, we are starting a new chapter."  

Yet for many, it wasn't enough.

Social media, commentators and columnists are railing against the apology, labelling it "strange", selfish, and vague.

Calls for The Ellen DeGeneres Show — and Ellen herself — to be cancelled persist.


The allegations against DeGeneres and her senior staffers surfaced in March when writer and comedian Kevin T. Porter tweeted a declaration that the host is “the meanest person alive” and invited people to back up his claim. 

Responders alleged that she once yelled at a staffer for looking her in the eye; that she was impolite and dismissive; and that she formally complained about a waiter’s chipped nail polish, resulting in the waiter almost being fired.


The claims were bolstered by BuzzFeed in July, based on interviews with current and former employees who alleged a workplace culture of "racism, fear, and intimidation".

The reports led to an internal investigation by the show's parent company WarnerMedia and the firing of three top producers, each of whom had been with the program since its 2003 launch.

According to Variety, a number of changes were made behind the scenes to address the allegations, including the instalment by Warner Bros. of a dedicated HR representative and complaints hotline, diversity and inclusion workshops for all staff, fewer last-minute schedule changes, and so on.

Only the victims of that workplace can comment on whether that is enough for them, enough to heal after years of ill-treatment and harassment.

So, as the audience, what is going to be enough for us?

It seems an interrogation of the problem, an admission of culpability and a commitment to change doesn't cut it. Cancel culture demands that person be erased altogether, that they disappear (at least long enough for us to have forgotten).

But what if the person was given room to use their influence to set a positive example, rather than be shouted down when they actively try to make amends?

As the boss and public face of her company, and as the source of some of the offending behaviour, it's up to DeGeneres to own the problem and to do better — much better. 

If she means what she said on Monday, if that apology was sincere, then surely there's far more to be gained (for everyone) from watching her prove it.

Watch Ellen's full apology here:

Featured image: Getty.