Former President George W. Bush has received plenty of criticism in regards to his time in the Oval Office. One of those reasons is his stance on same-sex marriage. In 2004, President Bush went as far as to call for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
Unsurprisingly, television personality Ellen Degeneres heavily criticized this move and celebrated when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to marry just 11 years later. So it came as a surprise to many Ellen fans and LGBTQ+ activists when Ellen was spotted sitting next to former President Bush at a Cowboys vs Packers game on Sunday.
In various photos posted online, Ellen can be seen sitting beside her wife, Portia de Rossi, with former President Bush and his wife, former First Lady Laura Bush, on the other side.
"I don’t care how nice of a guy George W Bush is," one user wrote. "He was one of our worst presidents and left our country and world in bad shape. The mess he helped create we’re still trying to dig out of. This is a bad look for [Ellen]."
Another added: "Does GWB think that his seat buddy's marriage violates America's founding values? Does he think there should be a constitutional amendment banning marriages like hers? If he's changed his mind on these views he expressed QUITE strongly 15 years ago I think America should know!"
There was so much backlash, than Ellen addressed the topic on her show on Monday.
“When we were invited, I was aware that I was going to be surrounded by people with very different views and beliefs,” Ellen said.
“During the game, they showed a shot of George and me laughing together,” she continued. “And people were upset. They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president? Didn’t even notice I’m holding the brand new iPhone 11.”
Ellen went on to explain that she knew “a lot of people were mad” because “they did what people do when they’re mad: they tweet.” Instead of highlighting the negative tweets, Ellen went on to share one that read: “Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again.”
“Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush, and in fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have,” Ellen said, comparing it to “being friends with people who wear fur” even though she doesn't agree with it. “Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean I’m not going to be friends with them.”
She went on to conclude: “When I say, ‘Be kind to one another,’ I don’t just mean the people who think the same way that you do, I mean be kind to everyone."
The explanation had plenty of mixed reactions, with one user writing: "This is so wholesome it actually made me tear up. I love so many people in my life with whom I disagree in some way or another, and it would break my heart if we couldn't be friends or family because of our differences."
While another added: "Here’s the thing, Ellen, George W. Bush is a war criminal who is responsible for death on a cataclysmic scale. It’s not a matter of being friends with people with different beliefs—we all have those friends—it’s about having a little perspective on the damage he’s done."
Another user concluded: "We going to need a lot of these reminders as we head into 2020 and it's great that Ellen not only talked about her day with George W Bush, but embraced it and turned it into a great lesson for everyone out there."
But another user added: "It’s not (just) his beliefs, it’s his record, this isn’t like being friends with the republican parents of your kids’ friends."