A brand and reputation management expert says that Ellen DeGeneres is trying to 'deflect to protect'

jsarkisian@businessinsider.com (Jacob Sarkisian)
·6-min read
Eric Schiffer PR expert Ellen DeGeneres
Brand and reputation management expert Eric Schiffer told Insider that he once met Ellen DeGeneres in an elevator at the Emmys, where she had "an air of arrogance."

A brand and reputation management expert says that Ellen DeGeneres is trying to shift blame onto others in order to protect herself from the ongoing controversy she has found herself embroiled in.

2020 has been the year of backlash against DeGeneres. Once considered to be a beloved comedian and celebrity, throughout the year DeGeneres, who sells a collection of products branded with her "be kind" message, has been the subject of complaints about her less than kind behavior.

A Twitter thread started by comedian Kevin T. Porter about DeGeneres' true personality garnered over 2,000 replies with many people describing their own negative encounters with the TV show host.

Related: Lea Thompson also claims that Ellen treated people 'horribly'

DeGeneres is now under even more intense scrutiny after a number of former employees accused "The Ellen Show" of having a toxic work culture rife with bullying, racial discrimination, and sexual harrassment.

Eric Schiffer, Chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, told Insider that he believes DeGeneres is in "a gigantic dumpster fire in which she is struggling to gasp for air at the bottom."

Schiffer, who is handles crises for major A-list celebrities, sports stars, and Fortune 500 companies, believes that DeGeneres and her team are handling the situation poorly, and thinks that DeGeneres is pulling out every classic PR move except for "the one that is going to get her to rebuild trust — which is to own it all."

"That's one path to regaining credibility and these battles are all about regaining credibility and trust," Schiffer told Insider.

He added that DeGeneres needed to "come clean" a long time ago, and the PR expert still believes this is her best shot at recovering from the scandal.

"She needs to take responsibility," he said. "It's important for her to know, the viewers like truth and authenticity. They know it's a con job. For those who still tune in, every night she is going to be scrutinized with an electron microscope. Every smile will be measured."

DeGeneres' strategy is to 'deflect to protect'

Schiffer said that DeGeneres' current strategy is to "deflect to protect," which he says was clear in the firing of "The Ellen Show" executive producers Jonathan Norman, Ed Glavin, and Kevin Leman on Monday.

The news came after former employees told BuzzFeed journalists that they had experienced sexual harassment and intimidation while working on the show. Glavin, Leman, and Norman were all accused of misconduct by unnamed former employees, with one telling BuzzFeed News that Glavin had a "handsy" reputation and would touch employees in a way that made them feel uncomfortable.

Leman and Norman deny all the accusations made against them, while Glavin has yet to respond.

According to Schiffer, their firing alone isn't enough, and was "right out of the deflect to protect playbook, to draw attention away from the horrible things many have said have happened under this diabolical Hollywood bubble," he said, adding: "This is a good day for shamelessly hypocritical prima donnas in Hollywood who fire their executive producers to deflect instead of taking responsibility."

He said that he thinks DeGeneres is hoping that her "cash cow" will cloud the judgement of the top bosses at Warner Media, who are currently investigating "The Ellen Show" after BuzzFeed's reports about its alleged toxic workplace culture.

Schiffer acknowledged that DeGeneres did release an open memo apologizing to staff of the show, writing that she was sorry to those who were not treated with respect. DeGeneres also promised to "learn and grow" to ensure that people never felt unhappy on the show again.

However, Schiffer told Insider that the apology came far too late and "didn't take responsibility."

"It's Ellen's shameless, out-of-touch, celebrity elitism, and the lack of accountability that goes without that disgusts people," Schiffer said. "Ellen's arrogance blinds her like the sun, and won't let her see. She can't fire her way back to public trust."

'There was an arrogance about her'

Schiffer, who is CEO of two businesses — DigitalMarketing.com and ReputationManagementConsultants.com — told Insider that he has actually met DeGeneres himself — in an elevator at an Emmys award ceremony one year.

"There was an arrogance about her, and I can see why she is considered to have this mammoth ego in Hollywood that would be too gigantic for her to ever quit the show early," he said.

Schiffer said he doesn't think DeGeneres will leave the show, but will instead hope that her power and status will see her through — though he stressed this is not what he would advise her if she were his client.

Schiffer also had a word of caution to DeGeneres' celebrity defenders, such as Katy Perry. He told Insider that in the eyes of the public, by defending DeGeneres, these stars are endorsing the kind of toxic behaviour the BuzzFeed reports describe, and are demonstrating a lack of empathy for the potential victims should the investigation find the allegations to be true.

"It's this entitled celebrity mindset where many are horrifyingly tone deaf that is what has people feeling somewhat crazed over their anger for their situation," he said.

Insider has reached out to representatives of Ellen DeGeneres for comment.

Read more:

Kevin Hart explained why he's defending Ellen DeGeneres amid controversy: 'I know how lonely it gets'

A 2009 tweet in which Ellen DeGeneres says she made an employee 'cry like a baby' resurfaces online amid allegations that the show has a 'toxic' culture

3 producers have left 'The Ellen Show' amid an internal investigation into allegations of a toxic workplace

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