During an appearance on Sirius XM's The Jess Cagle Show on Wednesday, O'Donnell said that she thought the situation surrounding DeGeneres' departure was more "complicated" than people may think.
"I have an understanding of the cycle of show business, and kind of what happens in people's careers, and when enough is enough," O'Donnell said. "Oftentimes people don't know that. I think I have a good balance of both in my life, of the importance of both. And it's hard to maintain. It's hard to do, especially when you're doing a show like that."
The topic came up after Cagle made a comparison between the two comedians, who have both been successful hosting their own daytime shows.
O'Donnell was dubbed "The Queen of Nice" during her titular talk show's reign, which ended in 2002 after six years on the air. Meanwhile, DeGeneres has famously ended many episodes of her show by saying "be kind to one another," a phrase many threw back in her face when allegations of a toxic workplace environment for her staffers surfaced earlier this year.
Looking back on it, O'Donnell admitted the label "bit her in the ass" but says that the situation with DeGeneres is different.
"I don't think it was the 'be kind' thing that got her. I think that's oversimplification," O'Donnell said. "But it was a lot of things, and it was complicated, and I'm glad that she's, you know, going to be finished and she can get some time to herself."
"It's a huge kind of strange thing to be on a show like that, and have all that attention on you," O'Donnell said. "And she had it for like 19 years. So, you know, it's a tough thing."
In May, DeGeneres, 63, announced her talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, will end after its 19th season.
Allegations of a toxic workplace became public in July 2020, when BuzzFeed News published a report in which current and former staffers spoke anonymously about their experiences on set, which included claims of being penalized for taking medical leave, instances of racial microaggressions and fear of retribution for raising complaints.
DeGeneres apologized to her staff at the time, and three top producers - Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman and Jonathan Norman - subsequently parted ways with the show. Staffers on the show also received increased benefits.
The TV personality told The Hollywood Reporter that while the controversy "almost impacted" her show, it was not the reason behind her decision to end it. "It was very hurtful to me. I mean, very. But if I was quitting the show because of that, I wouldn't have come back this season," she said.
"As great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it's just not a challenge anymore," the host told THR.
A week after her announcement, a show source told PEOPLE that DeGeneres is "confident" in her decision.
Gregg DeGuire/Getty Ellen DeGeneres
"It's sad that the show ends like this, but Ellen seems confident that she made the right decision," the insider said, adding: "After the toxic workplace allegations, the question was more when will [the show] end and not if it will end."
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The source also said that DeGeneres' exit was not a surprise: "She was almost out the door before the controversy. She's been talking about leaving for a few years now, but that was definitely the last straw."
Kelly Clarkson will be taking over for DeGeneres time slot following The Ellen DeGeneres Show's 19th and final season next year. The singer's titular NBC series, The Kelly Clarkson Show, will move into DeGeneres' time slot in 2022.