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Ellen DeGeneres George W Bush Controversy Explained
In 2019, the mantra remains true: never tweet. Or monologue. And maybe just steer clear of football games, too. Any of those can ultimately land someone in a precarious position. The most recent snafu started with a photo of George W. Bush and Ellen DeGeneres at a Dallas Cowboys game this past Sunday, October 6. The internet quickly dragged Ellen for palling around with a president who had a bad track record with LGBTQ rights and the baggage of the War in Iraq. Fans called for her to explain herself, and unlike most Ellen controversies, she acquiesced.
On Tuesday, she shared a four minute monologue on social media responding to the controversy regarding her George W. hangout. She explained the situation, noting that she had been invited to sit in the Dallas Cowboys suite by Charlotte Jones, the wife of Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones. So far—seemingly innocuous. But then in a video included in her monologue, she showed the “fancy” people around her, panning to the Joneses before swinging over and revealing former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. In the next minute or so, Ellen name drops her friendship with Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers before moving on to how the photo of her and Bush came to be.
In the final minute of her monologue, she waxes about how people are all different and that it’s fine to not share beliefs of those you spend time with or call a friend, finishing with, “When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean only the people who think the same way that you do.”
The response to that monologue was split, with some noting how far-removed Ellen has become from the larger part of society. Others made note of how it’s the comedian and host’s responsibility to call out “war criminals,” even if they are your friend. Think pieces floated to the top of the internet Tuesday and Wednesday, revealing how Ellen’s brand of kindness is out of style and how kindness for kindness sake had died. Others simply noted how anti-LGBTQ the former President was.
Celebrities like Kristen Bell, Blake Shelton, and Reese Witherspoon came to the defense of DeGeneres, splitting their own comments sections between applause and criticism. Witherspoon deleted her tweet, while others remain internet battlegrounds.
Among the voices of dissent, Susan Sarandon quoted an article from Out, highlighting the issues with Ellen’s appeal to kindness and acceptance, while Mark Ruffalo referenced a Vanity Fair article in a tweet saying that kindness cannot be prioritized over holding a leader accountable for “crimes of the Iraq War.” Specifically, critics point out the detachment that comes with such a friendship with Bush, ignoring the measures he took to go to war in Iraq, the mishandling of natural disasters, and how he stymied progress for marginalized citizens.
As of Thursday, the discourse remains lively with DeGeneres remaining steadfast in her defense of her friendship with Bush, as well as her stance that kindness come first. And whether DeGeneres’s stance is correct or not, it has opened up a conversation about the privilege of high-profile friendships, the concern with ignoring important historical events, and how far removed DeGeneres’s life is from those who watch her show. While a message of universal kindness is important, it understandably goes down poorly when it’s folded in with mentions of friendships with Aaron Rodgers and scoring the newest iPhone.
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on entertainment, television, and pop culture.