(CBS NEWS) – Ellen DeGeneres was spotted laughing it up with a former president at a Cowboys game Sunday, but the celebrity sighting received some negative attention. That’s because the former president was George W. Bush — a Republican president with political views that differ from DeGeneres.
She decided to address their unlikely friendship during her monologue, which was pre-recorded to air Tuesday on “Ellen.” She thought her message was important enough to tweet the monologue Monday, ahead of the show.
DeGeneres started the monologue off with a bit of humor: “It may not seem like a big deal for a celebrity to attend a football game, but I never leave my house. So it is a big deal,” she told her studio audience. DeGeneres explained that Charlotte Jones, daughter of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, invited her and her wife, Portia DeRossi, to the game. They decided to go to “keep up with the Joneses,” she joked.
The couple got to sit in a “fancy suite” because Jones “owns the whole place,” the host said. While in the suite, she took a video of the famous face next to her: former President Bush. The audience laughed at DeGeneres’ video from the game, showing Mr. Bush anticipating DeGeneres’ camera would land on him.
But not everyone was laughing, DeGeneres explained.
“When we were invited I was aware I’d be surrounded by people with very different views and beliefs,” she said. “And I’m not talking about politics. I was rooting for the Packers — and get this, everybody in the Cowboys suite was rooting for the Cowboys.”
DeGeneres admitted to “secretly cheering” for the Packers and her friend, quarterback Aaron Rogers. But it wasn’t her fandom that was criticized, it was the fact that she had a good time with Mr. Bush.
During the game, the broadcast showed a shot of the two laughing, and “people were upset,” she said.
“They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president? And they didn’t even know I was holding the brand new iPhone 11,” she joked, but then her comments took on a more serious tone. Many angry people tweeted about the seemingly mismatched pair, DeGeneres said.
The tweet that stuck with DeGeneres, however, was a positive one: “Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again,” she read.
The audience cheered for the positivity, and DeGeneres explained she’s friends with many people who don’t share the same beliefs. “We’re all different. And I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s OK that we’re all different,” she continued.
DeGeneres said just because she doesn’t agree with someone on everything, doesn’t mean she’s not going to be friends with them. “When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean be kind to the people who think the same way you do. I mean be kind to everyone,” she said.
The host got a round of applause from her studio audience — and her nearly 4-minute monologue received 4 million views on Twitter before it even aired on TV.
The two unlikely friends may have stirred a bit of a controversy online, but DeGeneres’ powerful story about looking past each others’ differences and being kind and friendly resonated with many more people.
And of course, she ended the monologue with a joke: “Thanks, President Bush and Laura Bush for a Sunday afternoon that was so fun. By the way, you owe me $6 for the nachos.”
Mr. Bush seems to be following in his father’s footsteps by forging an unlikely friendship with a comic.
Former President George H.W. Bush had a comedic foil in Dana Carvey, who parodied him on “Saturday Night Live.” But the elder Bush and Carvey were actually friends. In fact, when Mr. Bush lost his bid for re-election in 1992, he invited Carvey to the White House as a pick-me-up for the staff.
In 2018, after the elder President Bush and his wife, Barbara, passed away, Carvey recounted his 25-year friendship with the couple. “They didn’t demonize the other side, you know it was just a different time,” he said. Carvey wrote, “When I think of those times what I remember most is how hard we would laugh. I will miss my friend.”