The Most Toxic Talk Show Sets Of All Time

It's an unfortunate realtiy, but toxic work environments can exist in any industry. As mental health expert Dr. Kristen Fuller explained to CNN, "[A toxic workplace is] any workplace that makes you feel uncomfortable. Anything that makes you feel like you can't ask for the things you need and that you're not supported." 

Lacking opportunities to move forward in their career, micromanagement, believing you must be accessible to your employer 24/7, and working overtime without pay are some of the most common signs of a toxic work environment. What's more, this toxicity can go hand in hand with discrimination due to gender, race, sexual orientation, or age. And time and time again, that negativity starts at the top. As Tom Miller, CEO of ClearForce, told Forbes, "Leaders should not be the cause of workplace toxicity, but all too often they are."

The talk show world knows a thing or two about negativity in the workplace. From "Dr. Phil" to "Megyn Kelly Today," here are some of the talk show sets that have been called toxic over the years.

Dr. Phil employees claimed they were 'destroyed'

In 2023, Phil McGraw announced that his talk show, "Dr. Phil," would be drawing to a close after dominating daytime for over 20 seasons. Over the years, his series not only brought in viewers, but sparked a number of controversies. 

In February 2022, BuzzFeed News reported that a number of "Dr. Phil" employees had come forward with allegations regarding behind-the-scenes goings-on. The reviews were less-than-glowing, to put it mildly. The claims included allegations of verbal abuse, manipulation, unethical behavior, and racism. "This show destroyed me mentally, emotionally, and physically," one employee told the outlet. "They make you feel like not only are you not worth anything, every single day you're told how s****y you are, how horrible your work is, yet you're indispensable so they don't fire you. That type of mental game emotionally and physically carries with us into other positions."

In a statement to Variety, a spokesperson for "Dr. Phil" denied the allegations featured in the BuzzFeed story. "'Dr. Phil' and our hard-working, diverse team of more than 200 proud staff, many of whom have been here for two decades, have sincerely and respectfully worked with thousands of appreciative guests," the statement read. "From the beginning, show executives have strived to create a collaborative, safe, and open environment."

The Ellen DeGeneres set wasn't always so kind

For nearly two decades, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" was known for its kindness and positivity. Evidently, it was a different story behind the scenes. In 2020, former "Ellen" employees spoke to BuzzFeed News about the toxic behavior on the show's set. "That 'be kind' b******t only happens when the cameras are on. It's all for show. I know they give money to people and help them out, but it's for show," one told the outlet. Some claimed they lost their jobs after taking time off for medical and personal reasons. Another former employee said she regularly dealt with racism in the workplace. 

The former employees believed DeGeneres needed to take accountability for how the higher-ups were treating members of the staff. "If she wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what's going on," the source said. "It's her responsibility to go beyond that."

After the allegations surfaced, there was an internal investigation that resulted in the firing of multiple execs. DeGeneres also issued a public apology to her staff on the show. Months later, DeGeneres announced the show would end in 2022. She told The Hollywood Reporter that while the controversy wasn't the reason for the show's ending, it still stung. "So, it destroyed me, honestly. I'd be lying if I said it didn't. And it makes me really sad that there's so much joy out there from negativity," she said. 

Meghan McCain didn't enjoy her time on The View

It's no secret that there's been a lot of drama on "The View." In 2021, Meghan McCain announced that she not only had been dissatisfied with her experience on the series for some time but would be leaving. The resignation came shortly after Joy Behar told her on the air that she did not miss her while she was on maternity leave. McCain was hurt by Behar's remark. "It is one of the most singular feelings of loneliness and anguish I have felt in my entire life," McCain wrote in "Bad Republican" (via the AP). "It was a perfect storm of hormones, postpartum anxiety and a lot of demons on 'The View' coming out to bite me." She also shared that as the show's designated conservative, she often felt like the odd one out on the panel.

A little over a year after she left "The View," McCain was on the defensive again after Sherri Shepherd said some unfavorable things about her on an episode of "Watch What Happens Live." "The thing that is most sad about it is that 'The View' is really hard and I think anyone who has done it knows how hard it is. And there's also this toxic, mean girl reputation, that's not only with 'The View,' but in daytime talk in general," she said on "Andy Cohen Live." "I wish we would all just stop."

Star Jones' exit from The View was rife with drama

In 2006, Star Jones left "The View," saying nine of the ten years she had worked on the show had been fabulous while one of them not so much. As she told People, "What you don't know is that my contract was not renewed for the 10th season... I feel like I was fired." 

Barbara Walters expressed that she felt betrayed by Jones' statement. According to Walters, it was the network executives who had decided not to renew Jones' contract. "We tried to talk them out of it," the series creator told the AP (via CBS News). "I would have loved for Star to have left and not said 'I was fired,' and not make it look like the program was somehow being cruel to her." What's more, Jones suspected Walters and Joy Behar told tabloids about her gastric bypass surgery before she was ready to speak about the procedure publicly. In 2012, Jones returned to the show. When asked about her exit, she acknowledged how messy things got on both sides. "Nasty things were being said in the media, it just wasn't a good emotional time," Jones said, per The Hollywood Reporter.

All that drama aside, Jones hasn't shied away from singing Walters' praises. After the TV legend died in December 2022, Jones tweeted, "I owe Barbara Walters more than I could ever repay. Rest well sister...mother...friend...colleague...mentor."

Abby Huntsman said she 'was living again' after The View

Yes, we've got another "The View" story to grapple with. Abby Huntsman joined the panel in September 2018. By January 2020, she was gone. On an October 2021 episode of her podcast, "I Wish Somebody Told Me," she opened up about her emotionally taxing experience on "The View" and why the behind-the-scenes culture of the series drove her away.

"You would see people act in ways around you that was not okay, that was very much part of the toxic environment that existed, but because it was a show like 'The View,' that's just what happens," Huntsman said. She went on to share that she spoke to executives about her concerns on more than one occasion, but was apparently dismissed every time. Eventually, she hit her limit and parted ways with the show. At the time, she said it was so she could be involved with her father's political campaign. "When I was walking out of the building that day, I was living again," she said.

In November 2021, Huntsman returned to "The View" to celebrate the show's 25th season — and yes, she touched on the remarks she made on her podcast. "There were some tough days and there were executives here at the time and people here at the time that made too many of my days too difficult," she said. "But all of them are gone, and you guys lived a lot of that with me."

Michael Strahan felt like Kelly Ripa's 'sidekick'

Michael Strahan joined Kelly Ripa on "Live! with Kelly and Michael" from 2012 to 2016. However, when Strahan decided he was ready to move on from the hit morning show, Ripa apparently didn't see it coming. Apparently, Strahan had been unhappy with his role on the series for a while. 

"On television, I've had jobs where I got there and felt like, 'Wow, I didn't know I was supposed to be a sidekick.' I thought I was coming here to be a partner," Strahan told The New York Times Magazine. "When it was time to go, it was time to go. Certain things that were going on behind the scenes just caught up." He also said that while he tried to get in the habit of meeting with Ripa behind the scenes, she wasn't interested. As fraught as their professional relationship might've been, Strahan told the publication that he still has a great deal of respect for Ripa, noting the work she's done and what she has accomplished on the show.

When asked about her former cohost's exit, Ripa told Variety that there were behind-the-scenes issues that needed to be fixed regarding communication and respect. "I didn't kick up a fuss; it wasn't a big thing; I was just like, I'm not doing this. If I'm not worthy of a discussion, if I'm not worthy of you running this conversation by me — it was outrageous," she said. 

It took a while before Kelly Ripa felt at home

When Kelly Ripa first joined Regis Philbin on his talk show, she thought it was nothing more than a temporary gig. However, shortly after she made her "Live!" debut, she was offered a cohosting role. She joined the team in 2001 and has remained on the air since. However, she told People that knowing what she knows now, she probably wouldn't have taken the job. "And how sad for me. How sad for me. Luckily, ignorance is bliss ... that saying is true. Ignorance is bliss," she said. "I didn't know that there was so much in fighting between these two factions and that I was considered like, a network girl, which is so ridiculous."

Although Ripa has said on multiple occasions that she loves Philbin and always will, she made it very clear that working with him wasn't always a breeze. "There were good and bad days. I don't want to feel like I'm slamming anyone or that I'm being disrespectful," she wrote in "Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories" (via HuffPost). "It took years to earn my place there and earn things that are routinely given to the men I worked with. Including an office and a place to put my computer."

According to Ripa, they had a relatively amicable relationship outside of work, but went their separate ways once he left the series. As she said in the aforementioned People chat, "You can't make a person befriend you."

David Letterman's relationships with staffers were an issue

"The Late Show with David Letterman" premiered in 1993 and ran for 22 seasons. In 2009, the host landed in hot water when his behind-the-scenes behavior came to light. "Recent developments in the David Letterman extortion controversy have raised serious issues about the abuse of power leading to an inappropriate, if not hostile, workplace environment for women and employees ... he is responsible for setting the tone for his entire workplace — and he did that with sex," the National Organization for Women said in a statement. "In any work environment, this places all employees ... in an awkward, confusing and demoralizing situation." In a statement obtained by CNN, executive producer Rob Burnett maintained that the show took inclusivity and equity seriously.

NOW expressed concerns with Letterman after the talk show host headed to court to face off with a producer who threatened to release incriminating information regarding his behavior toward members of the show's staff. During the extortion trial, it came out that Letterman had had affairs with several employees.

In the wake of the scandal, Letterman apologized for his behavior and for betraying his wife. "Either you're going to make some progress and get it fixed, or you're going to fall short and perhaps not get it fixed, so let me tell you folks, I got my work cut out for me," he said on his show, per CNN.

Allegations of bullying on Megyn Kelly Today

In 2018, the Daily Mail reported "Megyn Kelly Today" head writer Kevin Bleyer was fired after he went to HR and made a number of allegations against senior producers Jackie Levin and Christine Cataldi. Bleyer had alleged there was a significant amount of bullying and harassment behind the scenes, and claimed that Levin and Cataldi were the worst offenders. 

A source told the Daily Mail that the show's response to Bleyer's claims went against what the show purportedly stood for. "Megyn harps on about people having a voice and shining a light in dark places, so that's what Kevin did," the source said. "Here's the problem, Megyn's show doesn't practice what she preaches – you do that on her show, you get fired! It's a joke."

Even though she was the face of the show, Kelly never addressed the comments or allegations made by Bleyer. In a statement to The Daily Beast, a spokesperson for NBC News defended Levin and Cataldi. "Jackie and Christine are being attacked unfairly," the statement read. "They are both excellent and experienced producers, and have the full support of everyone here. They, and the team, are fully focused on continuing the show's momentum as it continues to climb in the ratings." The series was cancelled a few months later in the wake of Kelly's blackface controversy.