Ellen DeGeneres has revealed that she received death threats and even a bomb scare after her infamous coming out in 1997.
DeGeneres came out publicly on the cover of Time magazine while her sitcom Ellen was airing on ABC.
She told Adweek that, after her sexuality became public knowledge, someone threatened to kill her during a taping of the show.
“When I came out, I had death threats and there was a bomb threat, but they misjudged the time of the taping,” she said. “We had already finished [filming], and thank God.”
She admitted that she “knew there would be people that didn’t like” the revelation that she is gay, but didn’t expect blowback from ABC as well.
“I didn’t realize my show would be canceled,” she said. “I just thought, ‘It’s going to be interesting.'”
Instead, she said ABC and Disney buried the show to appease advertisers.
“The last season we did was a great season, and unfortunately nobody saw it because it was not advertised,” she told Adweek. “It was purposely not advertised by ABC and Disney because they just wanted to hold their hands up to advertisers and say we’re not promoting it, we’re not doing this.”
DeGeneres said that her coming out was “definitely something I know helped a lot of people, and I was hoping it would help more people,” but the death of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who was brutally killed in Wyoming in 1998, “just devastated me.”
“I just thought, ‘This is going to make a difference,'” she said. “The ignorance of me to think that I would make that much of a difference…. It just broke my heart.”
Shepard’s death shocked the nation, and led to an increased focus on the violence and discrimination that LGBTQ people face.
In a recent interview with Metro Weekly, LGBTQ icon Lily Tomlin thanked Ellen for her bravery in coming out publicly.
Tomlin was offered the chance to come out on the cover of Time in 1975, but turned it down.
“I was kind of insulted. It wasn’t like Time was saying, ‘We want to put you on the cover for your work,’ but ‘We want to put you on the cover for you being gay,'” Tomlin said, adding, “It was too soon for me. I’m saying too soon for me, because I was such a huge television star from Laugh-In. I knew it would be risky if I did. I was awfully grateful when Ellen came out. She paid a price for that, but she ultimately triumphed incredibly.”