On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys lost their game against the Green Bay Packers, 34-24. But one Packers fan, famed comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, didn’t get to enjoy the win without controversy.
Ellen and “Friend,” G.W. Bush
DeGeneres took in the game from a luxury skybox with her wife, Portia de Rossi, and a number of other famous faces. Among them was former Texas Governor and U.S. President George W. Bush.
The two were photographed and captured on video sharing laughs during the game – stirring considerable debate on social media, to put it mildly.
As Entertainment Weekly reported this morning, DeGeneres was prompted into
defending herself after catching some flak over the weekend for chumming it up with former President George W. Bush at the Dallas Cowboys game.
After photos surfaced of her laughing with Bush in Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones’s box, many on social media wondered why DeGeneres, a liberal gay woman, would be friendly with a former president whose record includes calling for a constitutional ban on gay marriage and the Iraq War.
Yesterday, DeGeneres addressed criticisms on her titular show. “Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush,” she explained, using the controversy to push for openness across social and political divides:
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.
You can see the entire segment, which DeGeneres shared via Twitter, below.
Yes, that was me at the Cowboys game with George W. Bush over the weekend. Here’s the whole story. pic.twitter.com/AYiwY5gTIS
— Ellen DeGeneres (@EllenDeGeneres) October 8, 2019
DeGeneres also linked her pushback to the broadest themes of bothThe Ellen DeGeneres Show and the through-line of her work as a whole. “When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do,” she concluded. “I mean be kind to everyone.”
Is Ellen’s Rebuttal Enough in 2019?
For Out‘s Rose Dommu, the unequivocal answer was “no.”
As one of America’s most visible (and powerful) queer celebrities, Ellen pal’ing around with those who have actively tried to harm us feels disappointing, irresponsible, and dangerous. This was more than just rubbing elbows, as there will certainly be moments where she’s in the same room as more than a few deplorables, but this was more than that.
Dommu cited Ellen’s pseudo-defense of Kevin Hart, who famously caught ire for a long history of egregiously homophobic comments—prompting his at-best weak apology—as further illustration of DeGeneres excusing powerful, anti-gay figures on grounds of civility.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@EllenDeGeneres) January 4, 2019
Sorry @TheEllenShow , couldn't disagree more. In 15 years this is how they will rationalize yucking it up with Trump. There are countless dead Iraqi children who aren't here to laugh along with you. https://t.co/IrVH6d7p0v
— Yousef Munayyer (@YousefMunayyer) October 8, 2019
What #EllenDeGeneres meant by “being friends with someone with different views” is that her wealth and status shields her from criticism for doing the dumbest things (See also: Kevin Heart reaction).
— Colin_Bites (@Colin_Bites) October 8, 2019
Others offered praise for Ellen, from media, politics, entertainment and beyond.
I couldn't agree more @TheEllenShow. We have to lead with kindness, compassion & love. All of us can be friends with those who hold different opinions. Understanding & acceptance comes from friendship. That’s what #MovesHumanityForward. Bravo. https://t.co/eVXHUSWKd3
— Maria Shriver (@mariashriver) October 8, 2019
THANK YOU ELLEN – peace is not getting two sides to agree. It’s finding a way to co-exist & thrive.
“When I say, ‘be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean ‘only the people who think the same way you do.’ I mean, ‘be kind to everyone.’” @TheEllenShow
— Stephanie Ruhle (@SRuhle) October 8, 2019
At minimum, these controversies illustrate a central challenge facing DeGeneres and her show in 2019: How to balance generic positivity and mantras of “kindness” while the White House and conservative politicians veer ever further into viciousness on numerous issues, including anti-gay policies galore.
It’s also reflective of real, concrete worries. After all, the Supreme Court began holding oral arguments just this morning for cases that will decide whether anti-discrimination laws encompass LGBTQ Americans.
The extent to which DeGeneres and other famously out LGBTQ celebrities can or ought to embrace those who’ve just as famously (and aggressively) opposed LGBTQ rights is an open question – one which won’t be going away anytime soon, it seems.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.