Ellen DeGeneres is copping bulk heat over the first episode of her “at-home edition” of her daytime series, after she jokingly compared being in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic to “being in jail”.
Ellen’s daytime show returned to air on Monday, with the comedian hosting it from home. In her opening monologue, she thanked health care workers, first responders, and everyone keeping America going, and then compared her time in isolation to prison. It did not go down well, tell you what.
“One thing I’ve learned from being in quarantine is that people – this is like being in jail, is what it is,” Ellen said. “It’s mostly because I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 10 days and everyone in here is gay.”
She added that she feels bad for all the kids at home, all the college students, and parents. “I feel bad for a lot of people. But I think that a lot of people out there need words of encouragement, and that’s what I want to do.”
The joke quickly sparked a storm on social media, with many calling it tone-deaf and insensitive.
This is unconscionable, especially while people are literally dying of covid because they are in jail @TheEllenShow https://t.co/89zeafzOf4
— The Disordered Cosmos by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (@IBJIYONGI) April 8, 2020
What a great look for Ellen as thousands of people sit in actual jail cells just hoping for the best without soap and basic protections https://t.co/RBytt0Kl4B
— ✨ Caroline D Framke ✨ (@carolineframke) April 7, 2020
Another user tweeted, “No @TheEllenShow, being quarantined in your mansion with an abundance of food, medication, and privilege is NOT like being in jail. Incarcerated people are contracting COVID-19 and some are dying because of lack of access to healthcare, supplies, and basic empathy from staff.”
New York’s Rikers Island jail reported its first inmate death from COVID-19 on Monday. As of April 5, 273 inmates at the prison have tested positive for the virus according to the New York City Department of Corrections, via TIME. This is on top of the 321 correctional staff members and 53 health professionals across the city’s prison system who have also tested positive for COVID-19. Four corrections officers have died.
Ellen hasn’t responded to the backlash on social media, although the video is no longer available on YouTube. By the looks of it, her team also deleted the clip off Twitter.