Talk Show Hosts Who Treat Their Staff Like Trash

On air, talk show hosts are charismatic, bubbly, and by the nature of the gig, come across as someone with whom you'd generally like to have a conversation. But as is the case with many other types of celebrities, there's often a dark side to these seemingly hospitable hosts. From sexual harassment scandals to overwhelming demands to public humiliation, these notable talkers have been accused by former staffers of it all. Here are the talk show hosts who treat their staff like trash.

Steve Harvey

As of this writing, comedian turned host-of-everything, Steve Harvey is still dealing with the fallout from his now infamous "no popping in" memo. Blogger Robert Feder first reported on the new policy, which Harvey emailed to his staff at the beginning of the current season of his show. In the sharply-worded memo, Harvey institutes a strict appointment-only rule for communicating with him. He's especially adamant that he be left alone in his dressing room no matter what. "IF YOU OPEN MY DOOR, EXPECT TO BE REMOVED," Harvey writes. He even goes so far as to request that no one stop him in hallways or "approach him in the makeup chair" unless he "asks to speak with them directly." Wow, sounds harsh, no? Harvey had to be mortified, and probably apologized as soon as this got out, right? Nope, not even close.

In a subsequent phone interview with Entertainment Tonight, Harvey attempted to clarify, but arguably dug himself in even further. Though he did say, "And in hindsight, I probably should've handled it a little bit differently," Harvey did not apologize or retract any part of the new policy. In fact, he described his situation as "this prison" and analogized it to not being able to walk to his car without people hassling him, which are both hilariously tone-deaf ways complain about being the multi-millionaire head of a television program who unfortunately has to make decisions all day. In Harvey's defense, however, he did close the letter with "Everyone, do not take offense to the new way of doing business. It is for the good of my personal life and enjoyment." Nope, that doesn't sound at all like, "Nothing personal, but talking to you people makes me hate my life."

Rosie O'Donnell

Before Ellen danced her way to being the queen of daytime talk, Rosie O'Donnell wore the crown from 1996 to 2002 with The Rosie O'Donnell Show. And while nothing scandalous surfaced from behind-the-scenes of that wildly successful show, the same cannot be said for her disastrous return to the format with The Rosie Show on Oprah's OWN network. The Daily Beast reached out to several former staffers of the ill-fated revamp, and the response was not good.

One staffer bluntly categorized the show as "such a f***ing hellhole." Others cited specific examples of the strained working conditions, including a time when O'Donnell allegedly berated her director, Joe Terry, in front of everyone. The source said "she humiliated him when she scolded him in front of a live audience for using the wrong camera shots, suggesting he didn't know what he was doing." She also got visibly frustrated with her bandleader, Katreese Barnes, when she was unable to "play obscure Broadway songs off the cuff right when she [Rosie] named them on live TV." In her own defense, Barnes said, "I didn't spend enough time with her for her to know who I am, because my work speaks for itself. I'm not upset that I don't know Into the Woods by heart. A little heads-up would have been nice."

With this kind of production allegedly going on, coupled with dismal ratings, The Rosie Show was unsurprisingly cancelled in just six months. And just to top off her horrible boss performance, O'Donnell wasn't even around when her staff got the news that the show had been pulled. According to The Daily Beast, "she was in New York, tweeting about what a fun day she was having on Broadway."

Montel Williams

By October of 1998, Montel Williams was facing sexual harassment charges from six women and one man. His accusers including staff members of both his show and household, and they all claimed varying degrees of abuse. According to The New York Daily News, two of his housekeepers claimed they had seen his "wife and mother-in-law walking around the house bare-breasted." Two of the female former staffers told Jet that Williams "often grabbed co-workers' buttocks, regularly called women 'whores' and other derogatory names and conducted meetings in his underwear." The male accuser, another former employee named Ernesto Medina, claimed the legendary talk show host "made fun of him for being gay, gave him embarrassing 'sex toys' and grabbed his butt," according to E! News. And while that all sounds incredibly bad, Williams was exonerated from all of the charges. Sort of.

Eventually, each of the women dropped their charges against the daytime talk star, according to Variety, who reported that that last remaining suit was dismissed "with prejudice," which was a verdict Williams' lawyer described as "beyond appeal and as decisive as if the case had been tried by jury." Williams, who resisted pressure from his employer, Paramount, to settle the cases for over two years said, "I can only hope that my vindication gets as much publicity as the allegations did." So okay, fine, maybe Williams was wrongly accused by those women, but as far as we can tell Ernesto Medina's claims still stand, and until those "embarrassing sex toy" claims get sorted out, we're leaving Williams right here on this list.

Wendy Williams

Wendy Williams has been plagued with employee drama ever since she was a DJ. In 2008, her talent booker, Nicole Spence, filed a lawsuit against Williams, alleging that she "aided and abetted the harassment and abuse" that Spence and other female employees suffered at the hands of Williams' husband and manager, Kevin Hunter. Spence alleged that Hunter repeatedly propositioned her for sex, and that Williams did nothing to dissuade his behavior, even offering to take Spence shopping so she could "dress like a sexy little b***h as Mr. Hunter demanded."

Spence's lawsuit was eventually settled, as was a class action lawsuit brought against Williams and her daytime chat show by former intern, Anthony Tart. According to Deadline, Tart alleged that instead of the educational experience required of an internship, he and around 100 other show interns from over the years mostly spent their time "washing dishes, getting coffee, picking up art supplies, stocking printers, throwing out garbage, and creating a tape library." In a shocking move, Williams' parent company, Lionsgate, agreed to a $1.3 million dollar settlement, as well as took the unusual step to expand the class action pool to include "all former interns of the studio," which was around 1,800 people, according to Deadline. So not only did Wendy Williams make her employers shell out a huge chunk of cash, she also got them to basically admit that they probably screwed up every internship they ever granted.

​David Letterman

David Letterman courageously admitted to his own behind-the-scenes sexual misconduct at the show when he outed a would-be blackmailer live on air. It was a shocking moment in television, and it effectively scuttled any further controversy over the late night host's questionable employer-employee romances. But other former staffers have claimed that outside of any sexual wrongdoing, Letterman was just generally not that great to be around.

The New York Daily News reported on some of the many anecdotes by former staffers who attested to Letterman's curmudgeonly ways in Jason Zinoman's book, Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night. There was one about Tim Long, a former head writer who had such anxiety over Letterman's "constant rejections and dark moods" that he "chewed Coke cans and swallowed pieces of tin." Another "veteran staffer" ominously said of the late night legend, "There comes a moment when he turns on you." His longtime girlfriend and one-time head writer for Late Night, Merrill Markoe, even said, "The last 10 months have included a nightly discussion about what a failure we are," in reference to Letterman's post-show habit of "locking himself in his office" and complaining to her. For as beloved a performer and comedic genius as Letterman was, he sounds like Mr. Hyde off the air.

Johnny Carson

Like David Letterman, Johnny Carson was an iconic host of late night TV who also suffered from what appeared to be some pretty dark personal demons when he wasn't performing. In a column for The Hollywood Reporter, Dick Cavett once wrote, "It's a little obvious to say I think he was only happy for that hour or hour and a half of his day, but I think it was true." Carson's off-screen temper has been well-documented, particularly by his former lawyer of 20 years, Henry Bushkin, who wrote a scathing expose of the former Tonight Show host. In excerpts from the book, published by The New York Post, Bushkin claims Carson once described himself as "a s**t" who never sees his wife and kids, and who "gets drunk every night" and "chases all the p***y" he can get. So, there's a bit of a distance between Carson's beloved host persona and his true identity is what we're getting at.

Carson's personal coldness translated directly to his staff, with whom he barely interacted, according to a 1978 New Yorker profile. Though it was rare for anyone to speak out publicly against Carson because he was such a powerful player, a receptionist at the "bungalow" where his production staff worked some "200 yards away" from his Burbank offices admitted, "In the past couple of months I've seen Mr. Carson in here just once." There's also the story of Art Stark, Carson's longtime NBC producer who stood by Carson's side while he bitterly fought the network for more control over The Tonight Show. When Carson got his way, he immediately forced Stark's resignation, saying, "he wanted another producer, unconnected with NBC." If "pretty crappy" was the answer in a Carnac the Magnificent sketch, the question sealed in the envelope would have been: What was it like to work for Johnny Carson?