Rori Rhodes is television host Ellen DeGeneres‘ step-sister.
Rhodes, a 70-year-old interior designer in Dallas, Texas, spoke out to slam DeGeneres for alleging that her step-father, Rhodes’ biological dad, sexually abused her as a child.
Rhodes, who admitted that she did not know whether DeGeneres’ allegations were true, told the Daily Mail that she only made the “pathetic” allegation to “sell a TV show.”
“I don’t know if it’s true. I don’t know if Daddy did that. But it’s like, really? It’s so sad that she’s doing that,” Rhodes told the outlet.
DeGeneres said in an interview with David Letterman that was released last week on Netflix that her stepfather, Roy Grussendorf, groped her breasts under the guise of checking them for lumps after her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis.
Grussendorf passed away in 1997. DeGeneres’ mother Betty said in a statement to NBC News that she regretted not believing her daughter when she spoke out about the alleged groping.
“I love my daughter, and I wish I had the capacity to listen to her when she told me what happened,” she said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rori Rhodes is Ellen DeGeneres’ Step-Sister
Rhodes is the biological daughter of Roy Grussendorf, Ellen DeGeneres’ step-father.
Rhodes, 70, is an interior designer at Sacred Spaces in Dallas, Texas, according to her LinkedIn bio.
“I call my business Sacred Spaces because I feel that is why a client hires me,” she wrote on her page. “Not to create a space that is ‘in’ or I like but a sacred space for them to come home to and feel great. Good design is about how it ‘feels’ as much as visual.”
She has worked as an interior designer since 1987, according to the page.
Rhodes previously attended Oklahoma State University and graduated from Northwest Classen High School, according to her Facebook page.
2. Rhodes Spoke Out After DeGeneres Accused Her Step-Father of Sexual Abuse
Rhodes went public after DeGeneres accused Grussendorf of sexually abusing her as a child.
DeGeneres told David Letterman that her stepfather, then around 55 years old, tried to use her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis to try to grope her while her mom was out of town.
“He told me when she was out of town that he’d felt a lump in her breast and needed to feel my breasts because he didn’t want to upset her, but he needed to feel mine,” DeGeneres said. “He convinced me that he needs to feel my breasts and then he tries to do it again another time, and then another time.”
DeGeneres previously described the alleged abuse in a magazine interview 14 years earlier, claiming Grussendorf tried to break down her door, causing her to escape the house through a window.
“He tries to break my door down, and I kicked the window out and ran ’cause I knew it was going to go more to something,” she said. “And I didn’t want to tell my mother because I was protecting her and I knew that would ruin her happiness.”
“I’m angry at myself because, you know, I didn’t, I was too weak to stand up to [him], I was 15 or 16,” she added. “It’s a really horrible, horrible story and the only reason I’m actually going to go into detail about it is because I want other girls to not ever let someone do that.”
DeGeneres’ mother Betty said that Ellen told her about the alleged groping after she moved out of Grussendorf’s home but she didn’t believe her daughter.
“I know now that one of the hardest things to do is speak up after being sexually abused,” Betty said in a statement to NBC News. “I love my daughter, and I wish I had the capacity to listen to her when she told me what happened.”
“I live with that regret, and I wouldn’t want that for any other parent,” she added. “If someone in your life has the courage to speak out, please believe them.”
3. Rhodes Accused DeGeneres of Using Allegations to ‘Sell a TV Show’
Rhodes spoke out about the claims to The Daily Mail, which described her reaction as “livid” and “furious.”
“I don’t know if it’s true. I don’t know if Daddy did that. But it’s like, really? It’s so sad that she’s doing that,” Rhodes told the outlet. “It’s pathetic. The man has been dead forever. Why do they all think they have to bring up something horrible from their childhood? She can’t prove that, my dad’s not alive to prove it, and it’s just not necessary.”
“I don’t know what happened, I would probably bet a lot of money that Daddy didn’t do that. He might have been concerned about Betty’s breasts, and her breasts were turning black which they do, and wanting to know about that,” she continued. “But the bottom line is I wouldn’t trust anything Ellen would say, ever. It’s always been about Ellen. She doesn’t care about anybody else, it’s all about what she needs to do.”
Rhodes alleged that DeGeneres repeated the claims for publicity.
“For her to bring up trash like this, like she is now, I don’t understand that. To sell a book? To sell a TV show?” Rhodes said. “It’s a bunch of bullsh*t. I mean really? What is the purpose of doing all of this? Are we talking about money here? Ellen has enough money, she doesn’t have to do this.”
Rhodes added that the entire Me Too movement is “out of control.”
“I’ve had guys come up to me and try to do all kinds of things. And all I hear from women is whining. All you have to do is tell the guys ‘you touch me, I’ll kill you,'” she said. “We’re talking about women being powerful. Well, girlfriend, get your big girl panties on and go into the real world. I hate whiny women.”
4. Rhodes is Not Close With Ellen, She Says
Rhodes told The Daily Mail that DeGeneres never told her family the allegations but admitted she and Ellen were never really close.
“She doesn’t care. She’s never reached out to us, she’s never done anything,” Rhodes said. “My brothers are so angry they don’t even want to talk about it. I guess this horrible situation that happened in her childhood didn’t affect the fact that she’s a superstar.”
Rhodes explained that her father divorced her mother twice before marrying Betty in 1974.
Rhodes, who is nine years older than Ellen, said they would sometimes “hang out” but Rhodes “never really connected with her.”
“We were there for Daddy for that. Ellen was out for Ellen so we never really connected with her. I didn’t like her or dislike her. Daddy was married to Betty so I wanted to be a part of Ellen’s life,” Rhodes said.
5. DeGeneres Had Difficult Relationship With Step-Father Because She Was Gay
Rhodes said she did not know of any sexual abuse allegations but told The Daily Mail that DeGeneres and Grussendorf did not get along because she was gay and because she was pursuing a career in comedy.
“I remember Daddy saying ‘she doesn’t want to help us clean the house, she goes out all night.’ Daddy couldn’t understand that she had this passion for being a comedian. But more importantly the fact that she’s gay, he couldn’t understand that,” Rhodes said.
“He didn’t hate her, but he didn’t respect her in any way because she was gone all night long, she didn’t take care of the house, she was hell-bent on being a comedian,” Rhodes explained. “He did not respect Ellen, basically because she was gay. My daddy did not understand gays. I mean, my daddy still called blacks ‘c**ns’. He just couldn’t accept it.”