Ellen DeGeneres has had a rough 12 months. The talk show queen has endured one PR disaster after another, with the latest arguably the most damaging: Dozens of former The Ellen Show staffers alleging widespread sexual misconduct among the top execs at the show.
But DeGeneres's problems started long before that.
Awkward celebrity interviews, viral Twitter threads and even loose-lipped bodyguards led to the current crisis, that now sees her reportedly seriously considering walking away from the daytime TV empire she's dominated for the past 17 years.
A CONTROVERSIAL FRIENDSHIP
An image of former US president George Bush and DeGeneres sitting side-by-side and laughing at an NFL game in October last year sparked fierce debate online this week after being labelled "irresponsible and dangerous".
Many criticised DeGeneres – a prominent gay, liberal and outspoken LGBTQI activist – for cozying up with the former Republican president, who once endorsed a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.
Bush also entered the US into a war with Iraq and Afghanistan under the later-disproved belief that they possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Among the most vocal critics – actor Mark Ruffalo:
TENSE CELEB INTERVIEW
American actress Dakota Johnson, of Fifty Shades Of Grey fame, visited The Ellen Show for a chat in December last year.
Things got off to a frosty start when DeGeneres mentioned Johnson's recent 30th birthday.
"Happy belated birthday," DeGeneres said. "How was the party? I wasn't invited."
As the audience laughed, Johnson replied sternly, "Actually, no, that's not the truth, Ellen. You were invited."
Johnson told DeGeneres she made sure to invite her to her party this year because she gave her "a bunch of sh*t" last year when she didn't receive an invite to her party.
"I did invite you and you didn't come," Johnson repeated.
DeGeneres was sceptical at first: "This time you invited me? Are you sure? I don't think so."
"Ask everybody," Johnson said. "Ask Jonathan, your producer."
Further deepening the rift: It later emerged that Ellen had skipped the party because it was the same weekend she was with Bush at the NFL game.
VIRAL TWITTER THREAD
In March, writer and comedian Kevin T Porter tweeted: "Right now we all need a little kindness. You know, like Ellen DeGeneres always talks about!
"She's also notoriously one of the meanest people alive. Respond to this with the most insane stories you've heard about Ellen being mean & I'll match every one w/ $2 to @LAFoodBank."
There were more than 1000 replies to Porter's tweet, with people detailing their not-so-nice experiences with Ellen.
TV writer Benjamin Siemon replied to Porter's tweet with: "She has a 'sensitive nose' so everyone must chew gum from a bowl outside her office before talking to her and if she thinks you smell that day you have to go home and shower."
Author Allison Freer wrote: "Was working on a show @ WB that was next to her stage. Was our showrunner's 50th Bday. Caterer grilling steaks outside for special fancy lunch. Ellen sent someone over to demand they stop, as she doesn't eat meat. She's the worst."
GUEST SLAMS ELLEN
In an April interview, beauty blogger NikkieTutorials, real name Nikkie De Jager, described Ellen as "distant and cold" while detailing her disappointing experience as a guest on The Ellen Show.
"Call me naive, but I kind of expected to be welcomed with confetti cannons: 'Welcome to The Ellen DeGeneres Show!' But instead I was greeted by an angry intern who was a bit overworked," the Dutch 26-year-old makeup artist revealed in a translated version of an interview with Dutch publication & C.
"I was expecting a Disney show, but got Teletubbies after dark," she added.
When asked if the host was "distant and cold," Nikkie agreed.
"Just a little … It was a huge honour to be on that stage with Ellen, but it wasn't as nice as I thought.
"After Ellen I figured, don't meet your idols," she added.
BODYGUARD SPEAKS OUT
In May, a former bodyguard who was assigned to protect Ellen during her hosting gig at the 2014 Oscars said he had a less-than-pleasant experience while up close with the host.
"I'm holding their hands and walking them through individuals and large groups of people. Ellen is the one person that I've been assigned to – and I've been assigned to quite a few celebrities – that has never taken the time to say hi to me," Majercak claimed.
"It started going negatively when (Ellen's wife, Portia de Rossi) introduced me to Ellen and Ellen pretty much just gave me a side glance out of her eye and didn't even say 'hello' or 'thank you for protecting my mother, my wife and me,'" Majercak continued.
"It was very cold and it was very sly and it was actually kind of demeaning in the way that she treats people other than those who are in her circle."
On July 17, Buzzfeed published a bombshell report in which a group of former and current Ellen Show staff sensationally spoke out against the programme, making shocking allegations about the environment behind the scenes of the hit daytime show.
Ten former and one current Ellen employee – all speaking anonymously – described a "toxic work environment" with a culture of "racism, fear and intimidation".
"That 'be kind' bulls**t only happens when the cameras are on. It's all for show," one former employee is quoted as saying.
Former employees alleged to Buzzfeed that they'd been fired for taking medical leave, attending family funerals, and one for posting a selfie in the office on her Instagram Stories.
One person who escaped relatively lightly in the article: Ellen herself. She barely figured in the employee complaints, aside from one employee alleging they were told never to talk to her if they saw her around the office.
AUSSIE TODAY SHOW BOSS SPILLS
Neil Breen was the boss of the Channel 9 breakfast show in 2013 when Ellen came to Australia on a promotional tour and was interviewed by Richard Wilkins.
"The producers called us aside and said, 'Okay, this is how it's going to work here this morning. Ellen's going to arrive at 10.15 and she'll be sitting in this chair here and Richard you'll be sitting in this chair here. Neil, 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 he was shocked by the producer's comments.
"I sort of said, 'Are you fair dinkum? I can't look at her?'"
ANOTHER BOMBSHELL INVESTIGATION
Just hours after an apology letter from Ellen to her staff was published, dozens of former Ellen staffers spoke out in a shocking new Buzzfeed report, alleging sexual misconduct from several top producers on her show.
Many of the allegations centre upon head writer and executive producer Keith Leman, who has been accused of groping and propositioning male staff members.
Others allege they were inappropriately touched by producer Ed Glavin, who is reportedly parting ways with The Ellen Show.
In total, Buzzfeed spoke to 47 current and former The Ellen Show employees.
"Even though I was being abused (at work) constantly, Ed putting his arm around you in the control room was like the nicest experience you had all day, as messed up as that sounds," one female former employee said.
MORE CELEBS SPEAK UP
Former Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett, a frequent guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in the past, declared that the host's "horrible" behaviour was "common knowledge." Funnyman Garrett – who appeared as a guest on the chat show at least six times between 2004 and 2007 – declared that any problems with the show "come from the top": "Know more than one who were treated horribly by her. Common knowledge," he wrote.
The next day, as Garrett's comments made headlines, another celebrity chimed in: This time, Back To The Future actress Lea Thompson. Responding on Twitter to an article titled 'Brad Garrett Claims Mistreatment by Ellen DeGeneres Is 'Common Knowledge' After Host's Apology', Thompson wrote: "True story. It is."
PORTIA'S CONFUSING DEFENCE
Today, Portia de Rossi made it clear she's standing by DeGeneres.
The Aussie actress shared a simple blue and white banner on Instagram, featuring the words: "I Stand By Ellen."
De Rossi, 47, captioned the post: "To all our fans … we see you. Thank you for your support."
But confusingly, she added the hashtag "stop bot attacks", suggesting she believes fake accounts may be helping drive the backlash against her wife – despite the fact the criticisms have largely come from her own employees and fellow celebrities.