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Ellen DeGeneres receives backlash for joke about Liza Minelli

Host Ellen DeGeneres speaks onstage during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Ellen DeGeneres had a successful night as host of the 86th Academy Awards, but one joke has created some backlash and has caused the openly gay talk-show host to be labeled “transphobic.” According to a report by Fox News on March 4, DeGeneres has come under fire for the joke she made about Liza Minelli.

It was not Minelli who was upset, but some viewers took to Twitter feeling that the joke was mean spirited. During the opening monologue, DeGeneres called the Tony Award-winning icon “the best Minelli impersonator I’ve ever seen.” She didn’t stop there. She then added: “Good job sir.”

The camera then panned to Minelli who didn’t seem to take the joke well and neither did some responses on Twitter. One user tagged DeGeneres as “transphobic”, stating that her joke was “disrespectful.”

Liza Minelli later admitted that she didn’t think the joke was funny but at the same time didn’t think the Oscar host was trying to be “harmful.”

“I think she thought it would be funny, but she never stopped after she said it and said ‘my friend Liza Minelli.’ So I think it went a little stray on her. I don’t think she meant any harm at all, and she’s a wonderful lady.”

DeGeneres’s joke was probably intended to poke fun at Minelli and the fact that so many drag performers impersonate her as pointed out by Matthew Breen, editor in chief of The Advocate. He saw the backlash as a sign of progress, but in this case, a bit exaggerated.

“While it’s a sign of progress that so many more people are becoming aware of and sensitive to the discrimination transgender men and women face, the joke wasn’t about transgender people. DeGeneres’s joke was poking fun at Minelli, a performer who is legendary, in part because she is so often flattered by imitation.”

Although the jab has turned out to be a bit controversial, Liza Minelli called Ellen DeGeneres a “wonderful” person and did not take offense to the joke.

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