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Ellen DeGeneres' Misuse Of The Media and A Challenge To Right That Wrong

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For the past two days I've been immersed in conversations with several principals in the Ellen DeGeneres-Mutts & Moms-Iggy the Pup fiasco. And fiasco it is. I've spoken with Ellen's publicist, Ellen's dog trainer, the Vice President of Publicity for Telepictures (which produces Ellen's show), the attorney for Marina Baktis and Vanessa Chekroun (owners of Mutts & Moms in Pasadena, CA), and several respected animal rescue experts in the Los Angeles area - many who have worked with Mutts & Moms.

For readers who are unaware of the Ellen DeGeneres/Mutts & Moms fiasco, here is a video synopsis:


This past Monday, on her popular daytime talk show, Ellen DeGeneres dissolved into tears as she recounted her experience of adopting a puppy (Iggy) from a pet adoption agency (Mutts & Moms in Pasadena, CA - which to her credit, DeGeneres didn't name). After two weeks, Ellen and her partner, Portia de Rossi, decided Iggy was incompatible with their household and gave Iggy to Ellen's hairdresser (Cheryl Marks) and the hairdresser's eleven and twelve year old daughters. But the legal contract Ellen signed with Mutts & Moms forbade Ellen from giving Iggy away, and required Iggy to be returned to the Agency should Ellen decide not to keep him. By giving 7 lb. Iggy to her hairdresser and not returning him to Mutts & Moms as stipulated, Ellen broke her contract. As a result, Mutts & Moms went to the hairdresser's home, where, in the presence of the police, they confiscated Iggy, returned him to their agency, and found him another home.

Germane to this synopsis is the resultant vitriol that drove the HUMANS involved to such an impasse that rational negotiation on Iggy's behalf became impossible. Mutts & Moms failed to give the hairdresser's family its fullest consideration as legitimate adopters, and used its legal leverage to remove Iggy from a home where he was wanted. DeGeneres used the full extent of her celebrity to ignite a fan-based frenzy that resulted in death threats to the impoverished owners of Mutts & Moms. In addition, Baktis and Chekroun have likely lost their animal rescue business and small store. An online petition to Free Iggy has been launched by Ellen's supporters:
(http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?FreeIggy), while an earlier online petition, which asked petitioners not to adopt from animal rescue organizations until Iggy is returned, has rightfully been taken down.
(http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071016170030AA4iEG2)

Still the saddest repercussion of all is the potential for tens of thousands of dogs and cats to go unadopted, and to be euthanized, due to the anger engendered toward rescue groups as a result of this debacle.

Below are are few clarifications of inaccuracies reported by the media on this story:

1. Iggy did not live with DeGeneres and De Rossi for the full two weeks before he was given to hairdresser Cheryl Marks. Iggy was left in the care of Los Angeles dog trainer, Zach Grey (UrbanTails.net), who reunited Iggy with DeGeneres and De Rossi after 9 days of individual and group training - at which time Degeneres and De Rossi concluded that they didn't want a young puppy - UNDERSCORING THE NEED FOR THE CONTRACTUAL REQUIREMENT TO RETURN ANIMALS TO THEIR AGENCIES IF THE ANIMAL IS UNWANTED. The fact is, DeGeneres and De Rossi did what thousands of adopters do. They wanted a puppy, but realizing the amount of work a puppy takes, they couldn't make that commitment. Can one honestly fault Mutts & Moms for enforcing a provision that protects rejected animals? If Mutts & Moms were to PUBLICLY disregard this requirement, it would pave the way for anyone to overrule this safeguard and recklessly dispose of an animal.

2. Contrary to the negativity generated toward Mutts & Moms by the powerful DeGeneres camp and biased media pundits, the animal rescue experts with whom I've spoken were complimentary toward the organization. Ricky Whitman, Vice President of Community Resources for the Pasadena Humane Society (PHS), told me she was not clearly represented in the press when quoted as saying "her group would've handled this [Iggy situation] very differently." 
http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/news/ci_7198523

What Whitman actually meant is that since PHS has contracts to provide animal control services to different cities, they would have been required to remove Iggy in the presence of animal control officers and under much more stringent conditions - hence "differently."   Whitman lauded the owners of Mutts & Moms for their rescue accomplishments, stating, "We have worked closely and well with Mutts & Moms in the past. We have honored them for their work."  Whitman recounted the story of a pit bull puppy who'd been raised in a small bunny hutch. According to Whitman, Mutts & Moms was the only organization willing to accept the difficult task of rehabilitating this unfortunate animal - an accomplishment Whitman praised highly.

3. The DeGeneres camp's contention that Mutts & Moms went to the media FIRST does not square with the timeline of events. On the evening Mutts & Moms confiscated Iggy from the hairdresser's house, TMZ (also a Telepictures product) had been called to video the visit. According to Keith A. Fink, attorney for Mutts & Moms, it was the DeGeneres camp who contacted TMZ - NOT the media shy, show-biz naive owners of Mutts & Moms. Indeed, my own experience with the owners of Mutts & Moms bears witness to their abject fear of media, since their own attorney was unable to goad them into speaking with me or with the other media attempting to make contact.

4. The "Moms" in the name Mutts & Moms doesn't identify Marina and Vanessa as "moms" who rescue animals. The "Moms" in Mutts & Moms denotes the organization's inspired mission to adopt mother dogs from shelters once they have given birth and nursed their puppies - an arduous undertaking, since mother dogs are often euthanized after nursing their litter.

In the final analysis, this Ellen DeGeneres-Mutts & Moms-Iggy saga is a private issue between private individuals that landed on the national stage. If Ellen intended to use her show as the platform to manipulate this matter, she has made a dangerous error in judgement. She has crossed the regrettable line from comedy pulpit to bully pulpit and used her mega platform to attack "the little guy" - or in this case - "the little gals."  And it's caused significant harm.

Yesterday on the phone, Laura Mandel, Vice President of Publicity for Telepictures, described Ellen as "a real person with real emotion."  On this there is no doubt. But Ellen is also an incredibly powerful woman able to influence legions of fans. Beyond her cameras are millions of viewers she knows nothing about, capable of acts she can't control. They worship Ellen and protect her with a vengeance - and right now their vengeance is centered on two frightened rescuers who don't deserve their wrath. I've read some fan comments. Their hatred for Marina and Vanessa is shocking.

In the entertainment business, there is the long-standing concept of "a pro."  "A pro" is an entertainer who, regardless of personal travails, faces the audience and does the job. In my opinion, Ellen is teetering between a "pro" and a woman who's unclear about her "job."   She's abused her power by publicly challenging those less powerful. Rosie O'Donnell took on the President. Rosie also took on Trump. Others take on corporations, like Exxon and the airlines. But Ellen has challenged two defenseless woman with no resources - no fame, no fortune, no accolades and no ovations. Only attorney Keith Fink has come forth to champion their cause.

Across the nation, because of this fiasco, animal rescue organizations have taken an enormous hit - for which helpless animals will bear the brunt. To help revitalize this noble profession, I'm calling on Ellen DeGeneres to step up and intercede. I'm asking her to use her brilliance, her compassion, and her enormous reach to convene a panel of rescue professionals on her own show as quickly as possible to discuss what these organizations do and how they do it. There are lessons that need to be learned and rules that must be understood. My hope (though far-fetched) is that if Ellen does choose to do this, Mutts & Moms will participate - without the caviat that Iggy be returned to Cheryl and her daughters. There's an important lesson for Cheryl's daughters in all of this that has somehow been forgotten. The fact is, a contractual rule was broken. Sometimes the greater lesson is understanding the need to honor the rule - rather than the need to circumvent it.

On a personal note: For those who believe I'm holding Ellen to an unfair standard by suggesting she shield her personal issues from her viewers, I'll answer with this. One of the greatest gifts I've been given in my lifetme is the opportunity to teach. Every day I face rooms filled to capacity with adult students who care a great deal about me. I've faced them when I'm happy and I've faced them when I'm sad. I've faced them after losing family members, losing beloved animals, losing relationships, undergoing surgery, and more. But I neither share nor show my burdens. It is not my student's job to bear them. Nor is it Ellen's viewers' job to bear hers. We are simply there to serve.







 

LindaMilazzo.com

Linda Milazzo is a Managing Editor of Opednews, Los Angeles based writer, educator and activist. Since 1974, she has divided her time between the entertainment industry, government organizations, community development projects and educational (more...)
 
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This is not the first time that ellen and her part... by elena dumas on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 7:35:59 AM
Ellen may have been in the wrong to just give away... by Brasch on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 8:34:27 AM
They made an error in judgment, not evaluating the... by Rob Kall on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 9:47:53 PM
Had Katie Couric broken down on the news and cried... by Kitirik on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 9:08:28 AM
as a result of Ellen's use of media.   I hav... by Linda Milazzo on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 2:00:35 PM
I hope that someone steps up and finds a way to he... by bettync on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 2:37:31 PM
These women should be out of business.  They ... by Wayne Bass on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 4:22:21 PM
the hairdresser's family would not fill out th... by bettync on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 9:12:35 AM
I love dogs and have had several as companions. I&... by Sheila Parks on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 11:17:23 AM
Your bias is coming through. DeGeneres went to the... by pratliff94 on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 1:28:30 PM
I appreciate your kind words.... by Linda Milazzo on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 2:07:41 PM
You want a pet.  You are lonely.  You de... by Wayne Bass on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 4:50:44 PM
Years ago a dog rescuer explained to me that the r... by cluelessfl on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 12:39:18 PM
A much needed comment.   Thank you so much.... by Linda Milazzo on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 12:43:24 PM
My dog is so precious to me.  Thank God for m... by Wayne Bass on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 8:21:30 PM
you're right about choosing the right dog to f... by Andris on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 12:36:46 AM
How many horses must die to keep rich folks' dogs ... by Steve Fournier on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 2:26:50 PM
From what I could figure out about this: Ms DeGen ... by Mad Jayhawk on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 2:57:15 PM
Thank goodness for Ms DeGen.  This should not... by Wayne Bass on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 4:31:48 PM
There are plenty of fingers to point here. &n... by Karen Reiland on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 4:38:44 PM
Thank you for all you stated.  You have state... by Wayne Bass on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 5:07:19 PM
Thank you for all you stated.  You have state... by Wayne Bass on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 5:07:26 PM
While I appreciate your point that dog rescue orga... by Dennis Berlin on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 4:52:01 PM
Thank you for your excellent reply.  Wake up ... by Wayne Bass on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 5:16:12 PM
It's clear you have a lot of caring and compas... by Rob Kall on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 5:26:54 PM
My intention is certainly not to be rude.  I ... by Wayne Bass on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 7:05:13 PM
I would've preferred a few more paragraph &quo... by Melissa E on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 6:02:38 PM
Remember, Remember the 5th of Novmeber.  Stan... by Wayne Bass on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 7:45:37 PM
I am a dog lover too and would agree that Ellen ... by Rob Kall on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 5:25:03 PM
Listen up folks.  This is wise news here. Lis... by Wayne Bass on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 6:22:16 PM
Thank you,Rob, for your attempt to restore balance... by ardee D. on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 8:17:48 PM
RobAs for the bigger picture I would respectfully ... by Andris on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 2:13:52 AM
I can speak firsthand of a similar situation. ... by Melissa E on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 6:14:13 PM
Please identify the source that states that Ellen ... by Linda Milazzo on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 6:23:44 PM
I ask you again to please identify your source tha... by Linda Milazzo on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 7:14:56 PM
I agree that the media DOES seem to be focusing an... by Deborah Beach Giordano on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 7:00:20 PM
If there is actually a small anti-Ellen wave hitti... by Finia on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 7:42:20 PM
I absolutely love you,  thank you for all you... by Wayne Bass on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 8:01:18 PM
If you would care to ask me, what was the dedicati... by Wayne Bass on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 8:41:03 PM
I think this whole "fiasco" has been blo... by Lauria Hale on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 8:17:55 PM
A professional is one who rises above the immediat... by Moss David Posner, M.D. on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 9:45:00 PM
I couldn't agree more.My understanding of what... by Susan Bradley on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 11:52:55 PM
This is all about the First Amendment.  Let&#... by Lorring II on Saturday, Oct 20, 2007 at 11:59:33 PM
Rob, is absolutely right on this one I wonder... by Andris on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 12:10:24 AM
It sounds like Mutts & Moms are personal frien... by Jerilyn Schultz on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 12:21:36 AM
Tara I live in Australia so when the 30sec story w... by Andris on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 1:38:22 AM
Why has more not been said about all of the things... by Jenny on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 1:32:15 AM
My sister-in-law bred golden retrievers. She stopp... by Pat Williams on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 6:50:06 AM
You mean to tell me they were not going to use the... by Gallaher on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 9:14:18 AM
 To say the children of the hairdresser have ... by epaul48 on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 10:42:48 AM
When I saw the clip of Ellen coming unglued, I ini... by Pappy on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 1:21:09 PM
Betty mentioned this higher up, but attorney Fink ... by Casey Tefertiller on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 3:45:58 PM
I've been promised a direct quote for you on t... by Linda Milazzo on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 6:14:41 PM
HA, HA, You trust what a lawyer says. You must wat... by Gallaher on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 6:10:13 PM
Not sure if your comment is directed toward me or... by Casey Tefertiller on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 10:03:05 PM
I'm still waiting for Keith's direct quote... by Linda Milazzo on Sunday, Oct 21, 2007 at 11:28:40 PM
"Yes, the Marks family belatedly "filled... by Linda Milazzo on Monday, Oct 22, 2007 at 12:05:11 AM
The scenario presented in his response is not as ... by Casey Tefertiller on Monday, Oct 22, 2007 at 8:09:36 AM
The thing that bothers me the most about this issu... by Mars Caulton on Monday, Oct 22, 2007 at 1:33:48 AM
As someone who has been both in entertainment and ... by Elizabeth Ferrari on Monday, Oct 22, 2007 at 5:44:56 PM
M&M is currently unlicensed and was when the d... by ee on Tuesday, Oct 23, 2007 at 12:04:59 AM
I hope some other rescue or organization can come ... by ee on Tuesday, Oct 23, 2007 at 10:49:01 AM
correction: I say this because it seems the family... by ee on Tuesday, Oct 23, 2007 at 10:51:25 AM