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Ellen DeGeneres, a star of daytime American talk show culture, said Wednesday she plans to call it quits after 19 seasons anchoring a TV staple that has become tainted by toxic workplace allegations.
The 63-year-old host, writer, producer, actress and comedian won dozens of Emmy awards for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and has been a pioneer of the LGBTQ community in the United States since she came out as gay in 1997.
On Wednesday, she insisted that her decision to bring the curtain down on her afternoon show after a final season ending in 2022 had nothing to do with allegations in the past year of a workplace environment rife with bullying, racial discrimination and sexual harassment.
Former and current staffers alleged that "Ellen" has been a torrid place to work. The show has also been hit by slumping ratings.
DeGeneres told trade publication the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday that the accusations "destroyed" her.
"All I cared about was spreading kindness and compassion, and everything I stand for was being attacked," she said.
"When you're a creative person, you constantly need to be challenged. And as great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it's just not a challenge anymore," DeGeneres added.
When the complaints from staffers came out last summer, she acknowledged there were problems, apologized and pledged to do better.
DeGeneres herself was not accused of wrongdoing but three senior producers were fired.
- 'Be Kind' -
Things got worse for her when the actor Brad Garrett, who appeared on her show six times, tweeted last August: "Sorry but it comes from the top @TheEllenShow Know more than one who were treated horribly by her. Common knowledge."
DeGeneres, who built her brand on the motto "Be Kind", said that the allegation was "very hurtful to me. I mean, very."
"But if I was quitting the show because of that, I wouldn't have come back this season. So, it's not why I'm stopping," she told the Hollywood Reporter.
She is believed to have been considering ending the show for several years.
Since September, the show's ratings have plummeted by more than one-half compared to last season, to 1.2 million viewers per show.
She is scheduled to have Oprah Winfrey as a guest on Thursday to talk about ending the program. The final episode is due to run in spring 2022.
DeGeneres has been co-producer of her show and last year earned an estimated $84 million, largely thanks to the program.
That made her the 12th highest-paid celebrity in the world, according to Forbes magazine.
The show went on a brief hiatus when DeGeneres was diagnosed with Covid-19 in December.
"Definitely people have been saying, 'Why don't we just try to go a little longer?' But 19 years is a long time to do anything," she told the Hollywood Reporter.
"Every day I'm not super smiley, but my intention is never to hurt anyone."