Ellen DeGeneres jokingly told her staff "don't look me in the eye" during the first episode of her show's new series.
DeGeneres repeatedly referenced the controversy she found herself and The Ellen DeGeneres Show embroiled in over the summer during her opening monologue.
In a segment captured by Us Weekly, she said:
I'm excited to see all of my staff and my crew. Hi, everybody.
Please don't look me in the eye. I'm kidding. But I will be passing out gum for everyone. Kidding again. I can laugh now.
DeGeneres has reportedly denied the rumour that her staff aren't allowed to look her in the eye before.
According to Page Six, she told staff in a private Zoom call over the summer:
I don't know where it started. Please talk to me. Look me in the eye.
It's crazy, it's just not true, I don't know how it started. [It's] not who I am.
Her comment about gum references an unsubstantiated claim, published on Twitter, that DeGeneres demanded staff chew gum before talking to her because she has a "sensitive nose". The poster also alleged that DeGeneres would send staff home to take a shower if she thought they smelt bad.
DeGeneres addressed 'Ellengate' throughout her opening monologue.
As you may have heard this summer, there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show and then there was an investigation. I learnt that things happened 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.
Following WarnerMedia's internal investigation of Ellen, several senior producers were fired and remaining staff were promised additional "perks" including five days of paid leave and paid time off for doctor's appointments.
DeGeneres also appointed the show's resident DJ Stephen Boss, better known as tWitch, to co-executive producer, which she announced on the show.
As well as apologising for the toxic work place allegations, DeGeneres defended her own TV persona. She said:
The truth is, I am that person you see on TV. 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.
[...] I don't think that I'm that good [an actress] that I could come out here every day for 17 years and fool you. This is me. And my intention is always to be the best person I can be.
At the height of the Ellen Show controversy, there were rumours that DeGeneres would be replaced as the host of her show.
But with series eighteen now underway and the show currently contracted to run until 2022, it would appear that any such drastic changes aren't being considered.