A slice of social media lost its collective mind over the weekend after a photo of Ellen DeGeneres at Sunday’s NFL game between the Packers and the Cowboys surfaced online.
The problem: The self-proclaimed “gay Hollywood liberal” was sitting next to former President George W Bush.
Some Twitter users vehemently criticised her for sharing the Republican’s company, calling him a “war criminal”. But DeGeneres was not having it.
“Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush,” she told her studio audience Monday at a taping for Tuesday’s ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’.
“In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have.
“We’re all different, and I think we’ve forgotten that that’s OK that we’re all different,” she continued.
DeGeneres also provided some context as to how the seating arrangement came to be, explaining that she and wife Portia de Rossi arrived at the stadium in Arlington, Texas, as guests of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. She went on to share a video she took of Bush reclining in his chair between her and Laura Bush in the Cowboys private suite.
The Packers fan then joked about interacting with people who have “very different views and beliefs,” such as Cowboys fans, before acknowledging the red elephant in the room.
“Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them,” she said before invoking her own catchphrase.
“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. It doesn’t matter.”
While some doubled down on scolding the entertainer for standing by Bush, others came to her defence, including ‘Bless This Mess’ actor and repeat ‘Ellen DeGeneres Show’ guest Dax Shepard, who simply replied “PREACH!” in the comments under the clip.
This is not the first time DeGeneres’ support for a controversial figure has stirred the internet. Earlier this year, the host came under fire for welcoming fellow comic Kevin Hart to her show after old homophobic tweets resurfaced and dashed his opportunity to host the 2019 Oscars.
Amid that “cancel” crusade, DeGeneres pushed a similar narrative of tolerance and forgiveness.
“There are so many haters out there,” she told Hart. “Whatever is going on the internet, don’t pay attention to them. That’s a small group of people being very, very loud.”