Ellen DeGeneres bullied an 11-year-old boy, calling him ‘fat’ and ‘stupid’; made fun of his clothes and ‘took pleasure’ in his distress, the now grown victim claims.
In an exclusive interview with USA GAG and DailyMailTV, Ben Gravolet said the under fire TV host worked for his mother’s recruitment agency when he was a child, and claimed Ellen – then aged about 20 – would regularly subject him to biting, mean insults.
‘I would dread going to [my mom’s] office to see her after school or on a day if I was sick and Ellen was there,’ Gravolet said.
‘She would criticize my weight. I would try to do homework in the office, she’d call me stupid, she’d call me fat. She would criticize my clothes.
‘I was just a boy and this was a grown woman who took pleasure in seeing me become visibly upset.
‘I don’t think there’s any excuse for it. I was a defenseless kid. What could I have told her back?
‘It has an effect if somebody in a superior position to you, who’s much older, goes ”You’re fat. You might want to lose some of that weight chunky boy.” I was always self conscious about my weight and it made things worse.’
The Belle Chasse, Louisiana-based father-of-three said in the late 1970s Ellen worked as a recruiter in the lakeside New Orleans branch of Snelling Personnel, owned by his mother.
Gravolet, 52, who now works as vice president of a New Orleans marketing agency, said the multi-millionaire comedian ‘was just the meanest, nastiest, most horrible person.’
‘One incident stands out in my mind,’ he told DailyMailTV. ‘I was sitting beside her desk. I was drawing, and she criticized the drawings. She said ”I guess that would look nice if you could draw”.
‘As I watched her meteoric rise to fame, people would say how great she was and all I could think was she must be an incredible actor because she was one of the most vile people I’ve ever met in my life,’ he said. ‘Who takes pleasure in giving a child pain?’
Gravolet’s allegations follow claims from dozens of staff on The Ellen DeGeneres Show who have said that racism, bullying and sexual harassment was rife at the Hollywood studio.
The scandal prompted Ellen, 62, to email an apology to her staff – which some have labelled as ‘complete bull’, claiming she was ‘power-hungry’ and part of the ‘toxic’ environment on set.
Gravolet claimed that even aged 20 his mother’s former employee enjoyed wielding power over others.
‘It appears to me that she hoards power over those that are lesser than her. It’s almost as if she has to feel controlling. It seems like she has to be superior, be better.’
Gravolet’s furious mother, Tana Robinson, told DailyMailTV Ellen was ‘extremely rude’ but that she only found out about the alleged bullying of her son a few weeks ago.
‘I think I probably fired her. Had I known that was going on, I’d have punched her and then fired her,’ Robinson, 72, said. ‘A horrible person does that to an 11-year-old boy.
‘I can’t even put myself in the shoes of someone at that age that dislikes children so much or whose ego is so low that she has to smash a child to feel good about herself.
‘A bully is a good word for it. She never tried to bully me because she knew she couldn’t. So she bullied him with me not knowing about it.’
Last month one current and ten former employees of her daytime chat show accused its three executive producers, Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner, of ‘bullying.’
The executive producers issued a statement saying: ‘We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience.’
Lassner also tweeted: ‘Nobody is going off the air.’
Jonathan Norman, a co-executive producer, is alleged to have ‘groomed’ a former employee by taking him to concerts and showering him with other gifts and perks before attempting to perform oral sex on him.
Kevin Leman, the show’s head writer and executive producer, is alleged to have solicited oral sex from an employee. Others say they witnessed Leman grope another colleague.
And Ed Glavin, an executive producer, allegedly ‘had a reputation for being handsy with women,’ according to former employees.
The former staffers told BuzzFeed News they believe Ellen knew that several of her senior showrunners and producers were alleged to have committed sexual misconduct against junior-level employees.
A source close to DeGeneres denied she knew about the allegations of sexual harassment by show producers before they were published last month.
Leman and Norman have denied all allegations. Glavin has not addressed the claim publicly but is stepping down from his position, according to Variety.
Ellen responded by sending a memo to her staff, apologizing for the alleged misconduct on her watch, but accusing her colleagues of ‘misrepresenting who I am’.
‘On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen Degeneres Show would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect,’ she wrote.
‘Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.
‘I’m also learning that people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop.
‘As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or — worse — disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.’
After Ellen sent the memo, two former members of staff told the Sun the 62-year-old host’s ‘apology and denial that she knew anything was going on’ regarding misconduct was ‘complete bull’.
The pair told the paper: ‘For over a decade Ellen has treated her staff poorly, which is ironic because of her persona when she is on camera.
‘She is literally like two different people. One is awful, power-hungry and constantly yells at everyone for any little thing that goes wrong with the production of the show.
‘The other character that Ellen plays is what the world sees – a hilarious, kind and giving woman who is a fearless advocate for the LGBTQ community.’
The former workers said the show has a high staff turnover because of the pressure that Ellen applied. But explained the fear of her ‘power’ had prevented complainants from coming forward earlier.
Production sources revealed staff have taken to calling Ellen ‘Talk Show Karen’. Ellen was photographed taking a walk with an unidentified friend on Saturday afternoon in Santa Monica
Stand-up comic and former Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett tweeted Friday: ‘Sorry but it comes from the top @TheEllenShow Know more than one who were treated horribly by her. Common knowledge’
‘Love you for life’: Kevin Hart joins the slim line of stars sticking up for embattled talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres in a gushing Instagram post on Tuesday
One of the sources said: ‘She cannot go on living a lie and treating people this way. Her reputation and disgusting behavior has finally caught up with her.’
The show’s parent company WarnerMedia last week launched an investigation after the employees went public with their grievances.
Warner Bros., the studio that runs the show, has declined to comment on the sexual harassment allegations, citing an ongoing internal investigation.
Celebrities and comedians have joined the outburst of criticism for the chat show star.
The former boss of Today, Australia’s Channel 9 morning show, said when Ellen came to his set for an interview during her 2013 Australia tour, her staff demanded nobody talk or even look at her without permission.
Stand-up comic and former Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett tweeted Friday: ‘Sorry but it comes from the top @TheEllenShow Know more than one who were treated horribly by her. Common knowledge.’
Actress and director Lea Thompson also tweeted ‘True story, it is.’
Podcaster Kevin T. Porter claimed on Twitter that Ellen is ‘notoriously one of the meanest people alive’ and offered to donate $2 to Los Angeles food banks for every person who replied to his tweet with a story about her alleged rude behavior.
But music manager Scooter Braun came to Ellen’s defense, tweeting ‘@TheEllenShow is a kind, thoughtful, courageous human being who stands for what is right and highlights on her show the best of us.’
Others including singer Katy Perry and comedians Jay Leno and Kevin Hart have also tweeted glowing reviews of their ‘friend’.
Still, Gravolet said Ellen’s bullying revelations have made him feel ‘vindicated’.
‘I don’t take pleasure in seeing this happen to her now but at least it makes me feel like I wasn’t the problem and I feel vindicated,’ he told DailyMailTV.
‘If she did that to me 40 years ago, leopards don’t change their spots.
‘I feel for her as a person with all this going on. But at some point you’ve gotta stop. You’ve got to go get enough help to find out why you take pleasure in someone else’s pain.’