Following an uproar on social media, Ellen DeGeneres wants to clear the air about the time she spent with President George W. Bush at a recent NFL game.
On Oct. 6, DeGeneres and the former POTUS were photographed at a Dallas Cowboys-Green Bay Packers match-up, having been invited to watch the game from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ suite. The photo immediately drew criticism, which DeGeneres addressed on Tuesday’s episode of her talk show.
“People were upset. They thought, ‘Why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?’ A lot of people were mad, and they did what people do when they’re mad: They tweet,” DeGeneres began.
The host then called out one tweet she did appreciate, which read, “Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again.” As her studio audience cheered for the sentiment, DeGeneres responded, “Exactly.”
“Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have,” she continued. “We’re all different, and I think we’ve forgotten that’s OK that we’re different… But just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them. When I say, ‘Be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone. Doesn’t matter.”
But in the wake of Sunday’s football game, critics called DeGeneres out for palling around with a politician who, among other things, actively tried to strip LGBTQ rights when he was in power.
“Bush campaigned for reelection in 2004 largely on a promise for a constitutional amendment prohibiting marriage equality,” the LGBTQ publication The Advocate noted, and “pushed” — ultimately unsuccessfully — “for such a change in his State of the Union address shortly after winning a second term.”
Out Magazine also published an article criticizing DeGeneres’ time with Bush. “As one of America’s most visible (and powerful) queer celebrities,” Rose Dommu wrote, “Ellen pal’ing around with those who have actively tried to harm us feels disappointing, irresponsible, and dangerous.”
Watch DeGeneres’ full response below: