Two pioneering TV personalities. Two funny women. Two scandals and two different outcomes.
Ellen DeGeneres started her 18th season as the star of her own talk show Monday.
"How was everybody's summer, good?" she asked in an opening monologue before a virtual crowd because, hey 2020.
"Mine was great."
It was far from that, of course, and it's not about the corona.
DeGeneres — who has crafted a public persona as the "Be Kind" host who seems approachable and giving — and her show were the targets of stories based on interviews with about a dozen current and former employees who described a toxic, demeaning, sometimes racist workplace.
Three of the show's producers were fired, and Ellen addressed the allegations Monday.
"I learned that things happened here that never should have happened," she said in her monologue. "I take that very seriously, and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I'm in a position of privilege and power, and I realized that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show."
Ellen sounded sincere, and she should take responsibility. In fact, in this culture it's a surprise that Ellen, even as the boss, was not fired or forced out.
I'm glad Ellen was not fired, if for no other reason than the rest of the employees who depend on her for their livelihoods. In today's economic environment, good jobs in uncertain working conditions are better than no jobs in ideal conditions.
So all's well that ends well, right? Ellen said what she needed to say. Here's hoping that she follows through on improving employee relations and addressing complaints.
But let's take a step back, because we started our discussion about two TV stars. Why was Ellen afforded a second chance for something that seems more serious while insensitive social media decisions cost Roseanne Barr her job two years ago?
This is not defending Roseanne's offensive Tweets. She has an erratic history of prickliness.
This is wondering why only one was allowed the chance to work after very public mistakes and missteps. Ellen and her leadership team were said to have mistreated people and potentially violated workplace laws; Roseanne was a hate-filled idiot who insulted a Black person.
Neither is acceptable. But life in the public eye is unpredictable. The goalposts frequently move. Plus, public approval and perception matter when it comes to celebrity. That certainly creates a shifting tolerance for missteps.
But I know this: None of us wants to be judged on our worst day.
So good luck Ellen. Here's hoping for better days — for you and especially your employees.
Contact Jay Greeson at email@example.com.