US & Canada

Ellen DeGeneres defends George W Bush friendship

Composite image of George W Bush and Ellen DeGeneres Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption George W Bush and Ellen DeGeneres have been friends for a while

Ellen DeGeneres has defended her friendship with former US President George W Bush after they were seen sitting together at a football game.

Republican Bush had opposed gay marriage while in office, which led some to criticise DeGeneres, an openly gay liberal, for befriending him.

On Monday, during a taping of her television show, DeGeneres said: "I'm friends with George Bush.

"I'm friends with a lot of people who don't share the same beliefs I have."

Bush, who served two terms as US president, has also faced condemnation for leading the country into war with Iraq and Afghanistan.

DeGeneres interviewed Bush on her chat show in 2017.

DeGeneres said she and her wife Portia had been invited to watch the Dallas Cowboys play the Green Bay Packers at the stadium in Dallas on Sunday by Charlotte Jones.

"She's the daughter of Jerry Jones who owns the Dallas Cowboys. And we went because we wanted to keep up with the Joneses", said DeGeneres, with humour typical of her show.

She said Jones had "fancy" friends and then showed her fans a video she took from the game, panning quickly around until she rested on Bush sitting in the next seat. He looked perturbed by the closeness of the camera before breaking into a grin.

Returning to her monologue DeGeneres said she was aware she and her partner would be surrounded by people with different views and beliefs before explaining that she was referring at that point to the divided loyalties of the game.

She returned to the controversy and said: "During the game they showed a shot of George and me laughing together and so, people were upset. They thought why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?... But a lot of people were mad and they did what a lot of people do when they're mad - they tweet."

She did not showcase any of the negative tweets but did showcase an edited version of one by @Matthew_Oooo which said: "Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again."

The original had a HAHAHA at the beginning of the tweet which had been taken out.

The BBC messaged Matthew, who said he was a student in Canada and added: "I think it's bizarre that a meaningless tweet from a Canadian has become such a talked about point in American news.

"I had zero political motivation for this, and I think it's hilarious how much it's grown from CNN to Buzzfeed etc. However, it is very cool to be on the Ellen show. I definitely wasn't expecting this."

Matthew added he would love to be asked by the producers to go on Ellen's show and meet her but hadn't yet been asked.

The video explanation posted by DeGeneres on Twitter has already had more than five million views. She ended her monologue saying that just because she didn't agree with someone on everything, it didn't mean that she wouldn't be friends with them.

She urged people to be kind to each other and thanked the president for a fun afternoon, stating he also owed her $6 (£5) for nachos she had bought.

Since leaving office, Bush has garnered a reputation as a softer character than when in office.

His friendship with former First Lady Michelle Obama is well documented, with the two seen sharing sweets at public events.

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Media captionGeorge W Bush: "Immigration is a blessing and a strength"

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