This Isn’t The First Time Ellen Has Said Something Terrible, And It Likely Won’t Be The Last

"Be kind to one another" must mean be kind only to Ellen, I guess.

ellen degeneres questionable interview moments

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Ellen DeGeneres’ heavily criticised recent comments that being self-isolated in her multi-million mansion was akin to being in prison are just the most recent examples of the much-loved talkshow host’s tone deaf — and at times just plain mean — personality, which often lurks just below the surface of her bubbly public persona.

Trans-YouTuber NikkieTutorials recently threw shade at Ellen DeGeneres for how she was treated on the Ellen Show. 

When Nikkie de Jager came out as trans after a blackmail attempt in January this year, Ellen invited the makeup artist onto the show to talk about her experience. Grateful for the chance to share her story, Nikkie took Ellen up on the opportunity, then spoke about her experience on dutch talk show De Wereld Draait Door. 

“It was a huge honour to be on that stage with Ellen but it wasn’t as nice as I thought,” Nikkie told the show’s host Matthijs van Nieuwkerk, before revealing that the Ellen Experience wasn’t everything she imagined.

“Let me say that there’s a big difference between this show and Ellen DeGeneres, and I’m saying that in favour of this show. It’s nice that you [van Nieuwkerk] say ‘hi’ before the show,” Nikkie continued. “She didn’t.”

Nikkie’s recount of her experience supports a narrative that has long been circling in the entertainment industry about the talk show host — namely that she’s not as nice as her public persona would suggest.

While there is no doubting the impact she has had on the entertainment industry, Ellen has just as undoubtedly had some questionable moments. Beyond hanging out with an ex-president with a who many consider to be a war criminal, the “nice” persona that Ellen has crafted over the years is now being regularly picked apart online.

Over the years, Ellen has revealed her true personality, often disguised behind humour, dotted throughout interviews on her talkshow. From her uncomfortable birthday chat with Dakota Johnson to trying to force Mariah Carey into revealing her pregnancy back in 2008, Ellen’s track record of questionable interview moments only continues to grow.

Dakota Johnson

At the end of last year, Dakota Johnson shut down and called out Ellen for trying to put her on the spot while on air.

In an interview on The Ellen Degeneres Show, Dakota and Ellen had an awkward, tense moment. After Ellen brought up that she didn’t receive an invite to Dakota’s 30th birthday party, she was promptly shut down. Dakota put Ellen in her place and explained that she actually did invite her, but Ellen chose not to come.

After a clip from the episode went viral, people discovered that Ellen didn’t go to Dakota’s birthday because she was out of town watching that football game with George W. Bush.

Mariah Carey

In 2008, Ellen tried to force Mariah Carey to reveal that she was pregnant during an interview. In hopes of getting the Mariah pregnancy scoop while everyone was speculating, Ellen pulled out two champagne flutes, suggesting the pair have a glass of bubbly to find out.

It was a highly questionable, and highly uncomfortable tactic. “People are saying you’re pregnant. There’s rumours,” Ellen said. “Let’s toast to you not being pregnant if you’re not pregnant.”

“Don’t discuss that,” Mariah tried to laugh off before forcing a sip of champagne. “This is peer pressure.” And the worst part of this little ~bit~? It was later revealed that Mariah Carey actually was pregnant in 2008 and ended up suffering a miscarriage.

Justin Bieber

In 2015, Justin Bieber visited the Ellen show after paparazzi took nude photos of him and posted them on the internet. Ellen decided that a good talking point for the segment would be to bring up these nudes and discuss them on the show.

After talking about Justin’s video shoot in Iceland for ‘I’ll Show You’, where he was in his underwear for some scenes, Ellen segued into his nude photos. “Speaking of you in your underwear, let’s talk about the paparazzi shot of you in Bora Bora,” Ellen said while the audience woo’ed and cheered, and Bieber’s censored nudes were plastered on a huge screen directly behind him.

She continued to question him on how he didn’t notice the photographers there, then shifted into questions about the woman in the bed behind him. “You brought a friend to Bora Bora and you were just naked with your friend?,” Ellen quizzed. “Why are you putting me on the spot like this? Gosh,” a clearly uncomfortable Justin replied.

Hasan Minhaj

Comedian Hasan Minhaj was recently on Ellen earlier this year and spent half the interview correcting Ellen’s pronunciation of his name. Ellen opened the interview with a whole two-minute bit about how hard Hasan’s name was to get right.

Ellen started with a butchered pronunciation of Hasan’s name to which he simply replied, “no”. The pair then went back and forth in disagreement until Hasan decided to spend two minutes just teaching Ellen the correct way.

“Look, when I first started doing comedy people were like, you should change your name,” Hasan recounted. “I’m not going to change my name. If you can pronounce Ansel Elgort, you can pronounce Hasan Minaj.”

George W. Bush

When photos of DeGeneres sitting next to George W. Bush at a football game surfaced, she was criticised for associating with a man who stood against everything she preaches.

Responsible for thousands of deaths in the Iraq War, the extremely conservative Republican ex-president isn’t really someone you would think matches Ellen’s beliefs. However, Ellen took to her talk show to defend her friendship.

“I’m friends with George Bush, in fact I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t have the same beliefs that I have,” Ellen said. “We’re all different and we’ve forgotten that that’s ok.”

“When I say, ‘Be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean only the people that think the same way I do. I mean be kind to everyone,” Ellen continued to a clap-happy audience.

The Problem With Kindness

And herein lies the problem with DeGeneres and her brand. While the concept of being kind to everyone is good in theory, there’s a huge difference between, say, people with differing music tastes and someone who was the reason for countless unnecessary deaths on the other side of the world.

Kindness is not a shield for criticism, nor is it a fair excuse for justifying bad deeds, and even if it were why wasn’t kindness extended to the people made uncomfortable on her talk show? Why is it that Ellen is allowed to cry “be kind” when people attack her for her questionable deeds but then also pokes fun at quarantine feeling like incarceration despite the avoidable deaths happening in jails across the world?

This facade of being kind is even seen on the Ellen Show in the newer segments added to the program. The entire purpose of the ‘Millennial Challenge‘, for example, is to shame younger generations for not knowing older technology they were never exposed to.

Asking young people to use phone books and rotary phones to prove that you are somehow better than them isn’t revolutionary. Beyond this, it’s not a very “nice” move to have a studio laugh at them while they try to.

But I guess “be kind to one another” only works when you’re the one people aren’t being kind to.