Ellen DeGeneres has been heavily criticized after comparing self-isolating in her home to “being in jail.”
The Ellen DeGeneres Show returned from hiatus on Monday with a new, at-home format due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than a large studio, DeGeneres is now seated in her plush California home, with her wife, actress Portia de Rossi, operating the camera.
The traditional studio bits have been replaced with video calls to other celebrities, highlight reels of popular videos on social media, and conversations with the show’s resident DJ, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, and executive producer Andy Lassner.
But one joke fell particularly flat during Monday’s show, after DeGeneres’ compared her current situation to those in jail, CBS News reports.
“One thing that I’ve learned from being in quarantine is that people — this is like being in jail, is what it is,” DeGeneres said. “It’s mostly because I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 10 days and everyone in here is gay.”
DeGeneres then laughed and said, “The jokes that I have.”
A video posted to the show’s official Twitter account containing the joke was subsequently deleted, and a YouTube video of DeGeneres’ monologue no longer features the joke — part of the video has seemingly been edited after she mentions quarantining with de Rossi.
Backlash was swift on social media, with many criticizing DeGeneres’ joke as tone-deaf and noting the threat COVID-19 faces to the prison population.
“Except that people in jail can’t practice social distancing, don’t have enough water or toilet paper and are going to die at exceptional rates from Covid-19,” Zarana tweeted. “Except for that, Ellen, your quarantine experience is just like being in jail.”
“People are literally dying in jail from COVID-19 while Ellen is out here making jokes about it,” Rebecca Kavanagh wrote.
“Oh the jokes that you have…. my son is in prison facing a chance of Coronavirus infecting him,” tweeted Audrey Maxam. “Yep it’s such a joke.”
Another user tweeted that those “so far from being impacted by the criminal justice system love to use it as free labor and punch lines. Fuck you Ellen. Quarantine isn’t jail. Fame isn’t jail. Jail is jail.”
“Being a privileged super wealthy white lady ‘stuck’ in a mansion is not ‘like jail’, this comparison is not funny it is disgusting,” wrote @SalivaGlance. “Prison is no damn joke.”
A number of people noted the contrast between DeGeneres’ quarantine situation and those of many others.
According to Architectural Digest, DeGeneres bought her five-bedroom, ten-bathroom home in Montecito, Calif., for $27 million last year.
“I feel like I’m in jail,” says Ellen in this house pic.twitter.com/GbDe9rbXTk
— Adri Says Revolt🌹🌹 (@hello_adrii) April 8, 2020
ellen: being in quarantine is like being in jail
the jail: pic.twitter.com/1Ro9IkdQJx
— grace (@graceisaaac2) April 8, 2020
Federal prison facilities are being ordered to maximize early release programs to try and prevent an increase in coronavirus cases, CNN reports.
Attorney General William Barr wrote a memo last week noting “significant levels of infection at several of our facilities,” and at least eight federal inmates have died after contracting COVID-19.
“We have to move with dispatch in using home confinement, where appropriate, to move vulnerable inmates out of these institutions,” he said.
At least 288 inmates and 566 correction staff and medical workers in New York City’s jails have tested positive for coronavirus. The New York Times reports that an inmate on Rikers Island and seven members of the Department of Corrections have died, and 11% of officers have self-quarantined due to COVID-19.
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