Ellen Pompeo Called 'Privileged' & A 'Karen' For Bragging About Fight With Denzel Washington On Grey's Anatomy

She called it an 'amazing experience.'

Denzel Washington, Ellen Pompeo DFree / Shutterstock

Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo is currently facing heavy backlash for speaking about a fight she had with Denzel Washington on set.

On a new episode of her podcast, “Tell Me With Ellen Pompeo”, the actress had her former co-star on as a guest, Patrick Dempsey, where they talked about their time working together on “Grey’s Anatomy.” 

In the middle of the conversation, Pompeo quickly switched gears to share a heated exchange that she had with actor Denzel Washington while filming an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” — which Washington had guest-directed back in 2016.


Now, her comments are receiving backlash online as people accuse her of being privileged and entitled.

Why is Ellen Pompeo being called a 'Karen'? 

Pompeo's account of her exchange with Washington have caused some to label her a 'Karen' for how she spoke to and about the famous actor. 

The argument ensued from a scene in which Pompeo’s character, Dr. Meredith Grey, had to confront a patient who had broken her jaw during an epliteic event. The patient was apologizing to Meredith, and it was supposed to be an extremely emotional scene.

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“He made this choice to speak very softly. And [Meredith] was pissed that [she] had to sit there and listen to this apology, and he wasn’t looking [her] in the eye,” Pompeo said in conversation with Dempsey.

“Again, we love actors who make choices, right? And I yelled at him, and I was like, ‘Look at me when you apologize. Look at me.’ And that wasn’t in the dialogue, and Denzel went ham on my ass.”

Pompeo continued the story by recalling Washington angrily saying, “I’m the director. Don’t you tell him what to do.” 


Not taking his frustration lightly, Pompeo responded, “I was like, 'Listen, motherf*cker–this is my show! This is my set! Who are you telling? You barely know where the bathroom is!’”

The Grey’s Anatomy actress went on to share how later in the day, when Denzel Washington’s wife, Pauletta, had later come to visit the set, Pompeo immediately took up her grievances with Denzel’s wife. 

“I was like, ‘Yeah, [Denzel] yelled at me today. Yeah, he let me have it today, and I’m not okay with him, and I’m not looking at him, and I’m not talking to him,’” Pompeo said of her encounter with Pauletta.

She then concluded her story by saying, “So we didn’t get through it without a fight, but, you know, that’s actors for you—passionate and fiery—and that’s where you get the magic, and that’s where you get the good stuff. So it was an amazing experience, it really was.”


Instead of listeners and social media users finding the story hilarious as Pompeo did, they immediately started criticizing the actress for acting “extremely privileged.”

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Every detail of the argument paints Pompeo as someone who feels entitled to do anything she wants just because she feels Grey’s Anatomy is her show, including taking over Denzel Washington’s job as a director. 


The entire debacle just screams white privilege and white entitlement. 

It’s a white woman screaming at a Black man that he needs to be put in his place when in reality it’s her that needs to be put in place, and it’s her that started the entire situation in the first place.

That is the definition of Karen behavior, a white woman who believes everything must revolve around her, and that everyone, mostly people of color, are out to get her. 

From calling the police on people of color, to cursing out an A-list celebrity who is guest-directing an episode of the television show you are on, white women given the name of “Karen’ somehow always find a way to insert their whiteness in a way to dominate any situation.


This isn't the first time Ellen Pompeo has shown her white privilege. 

This isn’t Pompeo’s first experience with being called out for her behavior. In a 2015 interview, Shonda Rhimes was asked to comment on the colorism that Viola Davis faces for not being a lighter-skinned Black woman.

Rhimes was mid-sentence when Pompeo cut her off and said, "If any good comes out of ignorance, then I'll take the ignorance," causing Viola Davis to sigh. Pompeo then left the room after her “eyes welled up with tears.”

In 2016, Pompeo defended her use of Black emojis on Twitter after a user called her out for overstepping her boundaries as a white woman.


Pompeo responded by bringing up how she is married to a Black man, and has two biracial daughters, which apparently means that she is immune to being called out for harmful acts as a white woman.

There definitely needs to be some self-reflection done on Ellen Pompeo’s behalf, because it doesn’t make her an ally to the Black community if she can’t how harmful some of her comments can really be. 

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.