“Ellen Pompeo is the perfect example of [how] white women can curse and disrespect and not be labeled aggressive or angry. The lack of self-awareness. He went nuts? No, you did.”
Posted on October 1, 2021, at 11:04 a.m. ET
Ellen Pompeo is currently facing major backlash for recounting a fight, which she spoke about earlier this week, she once had with fellow actor Denzel Washington.
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On Wednesday, the 51-year-old actor took to her podcast, Tell Me With Ellen Pompeo, to look back on the heated exchange she had with Denzel when he guest-directed an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in 2016.
Ellen, who has portrayed Dr. Meredith Grey for the entirety of the show’s 17 seasons, reminisced with her former costar Patrick Dempsey about what it was like having the Oscar-winning actor as a guest director on the fan-favorite show.
“This is a good Denzel story,” Ellen began, before recalling how they’d had gone “at it” on set after she gave another actor direction without consulting Denzel first.
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“[The other actor] made this choice to speak very softly,” Ellen recalled. “And [Meredith] was pissed that [she] had to sit there and listen to this apology, and he wasn’t looking at [her] in the eye.”
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“[So] I yelled at him. I was like, ‘Look at me when you apologize. Look at me,’” she said. “And that wasn't in the dialogue. And Denzel went ham on my ass.”
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“[Denzel] was like, ‘I'm the director. Don't you tell him what to do,’” she continued.
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“I was like, ‘Listen motherfucker, this is my show. This is my set. Who are you telling?’” she said. “Like, you barely know where the bathroom is!”
Ellen went on to recall informing Denzel’s wife — who was visiting the Grey’s set the same day — about the argument that had unfolded.
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“And then his wife came to set to visit,” she said. “I was not talking to [Denzel], I was mad at him… I told his wife [that] he yelled at me today… And I’m not okay with him, and I’m not looking at him, and I’m not talking to him.”
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Ellen added that she has the “utmost respect” for Denzel “as an actor and a director” and called the whole exchange an “amazing experience.”
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She said: “We didn't get through it without a fight, but that's actors for you. Passionate and fiery… and that's where you get the good stuff. So, it was an amazing experience; it really was.”
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Well, it's safe to say that Ellen's comments were not well-received, with the audio clip of her story quickly making the rounds on Twitter after the podcast's release.
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The viral exchange resulted in fans immediately calling Ellen out for her “rude” comments, while also making fun of her “entitled” tone.
Did Ellen Pompeo think telling the story about yelling at Denzel Washington was endearing or putting her in a good light? It makes her comes across as a privileged and entitled jerk. Especially running to tell his wife.
11:51 PM - 30 Sep 2021
Fans firstly criticized Ellen for introducing the entire exchange as “a good Denzel story” in light of its uncomfortable nature.
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“My tone for ‘this is a good Denzel story’ is a lot different to hers,” one person tweeted.
My tone for “this is a good Denzel story” is a lot different to hers https://t.co/1mxZSSidtU
01:21 AM - 01 Oct 2021
“it was not a good denzel story,” wrote one fan, to which another agreed, replying, “but she told it anyway.” Twitter: @rebelsouffle
“so she disrespected Denzel Washington and then tried to play victim to his wife and she thinks this is a good story,” another tweeted. “i keep trying to root for her cause i’ve enjoyed Greys so much but the stories she tells on herself keep getting worse and worse.”
so she disrespected Denzel Washington and then tried to play victim to his wife and she thinks this is a good story. 🤦🏽♀️ i keep trying to root for her cause i’ve enjoyed Greys so much but the stories she tells on herself keep getting worse and worse. https://t.co/SnKwIjxmok
02:45 PM - 30 Sep 2021
“Imagine calling Denzel Washington “motherfucker” to his face and then telling a magazine about it, and thinking it’s a good story to share,” one person wrote.
Imagine calling Denzel Washington “motherfucker” to his face and then telling a magazine about it, and thinking it’s a good story to share.
01:56 PM - 30 Sep 2021
Many said that Ellen’s tone came across as dismissive and derogatory. They also suggested that the actor — who is married to Chris Ivery, a Black man, and has three biracial children — displayed a sense of entitlement and a supremacy complex, which fans called a demonstration of “white privilege.”
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“White privileging at its finest,” one person wrote. “I don’t care that her kids are mixed her husband is black. No passes given for acting like an ass.”
@nikkinicole1908 White privileging at its finest. I don’t care that her kids are mixed amp; her husband is black. No passes given for acting like an ass.
12:03 AM - 01 Oct 2021
“Marrying someone Black does not give you a Pass,” tweeted radio host Nayyera Haq. “Having bi-racial kids does not make you know the experience. You are still YOU. This tweet is for Ellen Pompeo.”
Marrying someone Black does not give you a Pass. Having bi-racial kids does not make you know the experience. You are still YOU. This tweet is for Ellen Pompeo.
11:37 AM - 30 Sep 2021
"I wonder if she’d talk to Scorsese or Spielberg like that?" wrote author and host Tiffany Cross. "Marrying a Black person doesn't necessarily erase the supremacy complex."
And I know her husband is Black. She’s spoken about it before. At the time she was saying we don’t need awards that specifically honor Black people amp; referenced her Black husband. Marrying a Black person doesn’t necessarily erase the supremacy complex. As evidenced by THIS‼️
11:39 AM - 30 Sep 2021
And Ellen's "entitled" tone became even more of a talking point after an old tweet of hers resurfaced in light of the recent criticism.
In 2016, Ellen was criticized for using the dark skin emojis despite being a white woman. She responded by saying she uses these emojis "because racism is not just a black problem," but "all of our problem."
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And when someone tweeted: "Shut up white lady" in response, she replied: "That's white lady with a black husband and black children to you babe."
That's white lady with a black husband and black children to you babe 💋 https://t.co/BTQuSHJ1sr
11:08 PM - 23 Dec 2016
After the tweet began making the rounds again this week, fans quickly called Ellen out for using her Black family members to excuse her microaggressive remarks.
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“You're still white and you don't get to hide behind Black family members after you say or do something racist,” one person replied. “Own up to your mistakes, just listen and learn.”
@EllenPompeo It's collect my cousins time. Apparently you missed the memo. You're still white and you don't get to hide behind Black family members after you say or do something racist. Own up to your mistakes, just listen and learn, that's our job right now.
01:53 AM - 01 Oct 2021
“Ellen, having a black husband and a black children doesn't make you any less white or privileged yknow…,” wrote another.
@EllenPompeo but Ellen, having a black husband and a black children doesn't make you any less white or privileged yknow...
11:10 PM - 23 Dec 2016
And fans were even more critical of Ellen's behavior toward Denzel when they discovered the reason for his appearance as guest director.
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The actor herself revealed on her podcast that Denzel was brought on by Debbie Allen, who has directed several Grey’s Anatomy episodes, in a bid to appease Ellen after she’d openly debated leaving the show following the departure of her costars Sandra Oh and Patrick Dempsey.
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One fan tweeted: “So not only did Ellen Pompeo swear at Denzel Washington for doing his job as a director telling him ‘listen motherfucker this is my show,’ the only reason Denzel was there was because Ellen was considering leaving ‘her show’ he was brought on a surprise to keep her happy.”
So not only did Ellen Pompeo swear at Denzel Washington for doing his job as a director telling him "listen motherfucker this is my show," the only reason Denzel was there was because Ellen was considering leaving "her show" amp; he was brought on a surprise to keep her happy.
03:53 PM - 30 Sep 2021
Elsewhere, another fan suggested that Ellen “completely embarrassed” Debbie with her “shitty behavior.”
Honestly the Ellen Pompeo story SUCKS for all the reasons everyone has already covered but also because she completely embarrassed Debbie Allen with that shitty behavior
03:17 PM - 30 Sep 2021
It wasn’t long before a viral thread of the Grey's Anatomy star’s past comments surfaced on Twitter, leading to fans drawing similarities between those and her most recent remarks.
Ellen Pompeo recalls an argument she had with Denzel Washington when he was directing an episode of Grey's Anatomy. She describes it as him "going nuts on her" because she tried to direct the other actor in the scene and Denzel told her he's the director.
01:50 AM - 30 Sep 2021
In 2015, Ellen faced severe criticism for her “disruptive behavior” during a conversation with actor Viola Davis and Grey’s Anatomy producer Shonda Rhimes about racism in Hollywood.
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While Shonda and Viola discussed the racism they'd experienced — including Viola being told she was "less classically beautiful" than other, lighter-skinned Black actors — Ellen interrupted to assert her opinion.
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“If any good comes out of ignorance, then I’ll take the ignorance,” Ellen said, after which Viola let out a sigh.
Rodin Eckenroth / FilmMagic
Viola responded, “I understand what Ellen is talking about, but I’ve been on the other side of ignorance,” after which Ellen tearfully walked out of the room.
Many labeled Ellen "entitled" and "ignorant" for cutting off a Black person discussing their experiences of racism to insert her own opinion before walking away when her response wasn't well-received.
Emma Mcintyre / Getty Images for Women In Film
And now, six years later, fans are accusing her of the same thing. Just yesterday, after Ellen tweeted out the link to her podcast, the replies were flooded with people asking her to address her comments about Denzel and the backlash she’s been receiving.
While Ellen has liked a bunch of tweets praising the podcast episode broadly, she hasn’t yet publicly addressed the criticism.