Turns out The Kelly Clarkson Show is a successor to The Ellen DeGeneres Show in more ways than one. Clarkson’s popular talk show is now also being accused of fostering a toxic workplace behind the scenes in a new Rolling Stone report. Eleven employees (one current, ten former) spoke to the outlet about their experiences, alleging bullying, verbal abuse, and retaliation from high-level producers, and no help from human resources when those issues were reported.
The main target of these complaints is not Kelly Clarkson, but executive producer Alex Duda, whom one staffer called “a monster.” Duda allegedly exhibited similar bad behavior at previous jobs including Steve Harvey and The Tyra Banks Show. These employees argue the EP fosters an environment of toxicity among other producers and has put staffers in “uncomfortable” positions, questioning one (white) employee as to “why don’t Black people want to see Kelly?” and reprimanding another for asking executive producers how the show would address the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes. The latter staffer says that after reporting the situation to HR, they were bullied and excluded from meetings and eventually left the show over perceived retaliation.
Producers under Duda are said to engage in bullying and verbal abuse. One employee quit after a producer “yelled and cursed at them multiple times on stage.” A production manager was observed throwing a stapler across the room, and “would speak in a way that you’re not supposed to in a professional environment—cursing, raising his voice, and throwing a huge temper tantrum,” said a former staffer. Those who did report issues to HR saw no progress, and producers who were the subject of complaints in fact got promotions. Meanwhile, staffers subject to this environment suffered extreme anxiety, some sharing that they had physical symptoms like stress-induced vomiting and one person saying they took a leave of absence and saw a psychiatrist for the first time.
All those on the record professed belief that Clarkson knew nothing about the strife of her lower-level staffers. (For what it’s worth, DeGeneres also claimed not to have known what was going on in the ranks beneath her when her show was fielding similar accusations.) “NBC is protecting the show because it’s their new moneymaker, but Kelly has no clue how unhappy her staff is,” one of the ex-employees said. “Kelly is fantastic. She is a person who never treats anyone with anything but dignity and is incredibly appreciative,” said another. “I would be shocked if she knew. I’d be floored if she knew the staff wasn’t getting paid for two weeks of Christmas hiatus. The Kelly that I interacted with and that everyone knows would probably be pretty aghast to learn that.”
Neither Clarkson nor any of the other producers commented on Rolling Stone’s story. It will be interesting to see how—or if—the culture changes upon the show’s move to New York City. (The Writers Guild of America is also reportedly investigating the show due to producers allegedly writing episodes, which is against the WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement.) A current employee at The Kelly Clarkson Show speculated that daytime television as a whole encourages an inexplicably toxic culture. “All these daytime shows are supposed to make you feel good and be happy,” they said. “Kelly [Clarkson] uses a sign-off, ‘Make it a great day and if it’s not great, change it,’ but it’s hard to exist and work in a machine that’s pumping out this happy, bubbly, positive messaging and then you have people here who are just treated badly.” You can read the full report here.