On Sunday at the Cowboys-Packers game, we saw a “gay hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative republican president.” And as it tends to, the internet chimed in with criticism.
In a response Tuesday, Ellen DeGeneres opened her show with a four minute-long defense of her friendship with former President George W. Bush.
“Here’s the thing, I’m friends with George Bush,” DeGeneres said. “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 okay.”
At the bottom of everything, it’s not really anybody’s business who DeGeneres is friends with. Further, it seems that the two just happened to be sitting in a box watching a football game alongside others.
What’s questionable, though, is DeGeneres’ decision to essentially encourage her audience to overlook Bush’s “different” views because she does too. His views weren’t just “different,” though — they were wrong and discriminatory. Some of these include his conscious efforts throughout his presidency to commit war crimes, bar LGBTQ individuals from basic human rights and turn a blind eye toward those impacted by Hurricane Katrina.
This isn’t the first time DeGeneres has issued a sort of blanket “forgiveness statement” like this, seeming to speak fully on behalf of marginalized communities when they didn’t ask to be spoken for.
Just this past January, she defended Kevin Hart after he stepped down as the 2019 Oscars host for making offensive, homophobic jokes. Instead of potentially using her platform to condemn Hart’s remarks, she gave him even more of an audience by bringing him on her show for an interview.
Hart’s apology was hollow at best. But DeGeneres accepted, and said that “as a gay person, [she is] sensitive” to LGBTQ issues.
“You've already expressed that it's not being educated on the subject, not realizing how dangerous those words are...,” DeGeneres said. “You have grown, you have apologized, you are apologizing again right now. You’ve done it. Don’t let those people win. Host the Oscars.”
Many did not accept Hart’s apology or think he handled the situation genuinely — but a popular, beloved gay talk show host did, so many absolved him of his wrongs.
DeGeneres’ decisions to be “buddy buddy” with both Bush and Hart angered many, especially those within the LGBTQ community.
In addition to identifying as gay, DeGeneres is a wealthy, white female celebrity who has a massive platform.
While she is known for using her celebrity for good, that doesn’t mean she should hold her words as gospel for entire communities, including the LGBTQ community. She seems to have silently given herself the right to speak for many people from different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives who might not actually agree with her.
While her message of “be kind to everyone” is, well, kind in theory, it can also be pretty vague and meaningless in situations like this. To be “kind” means to show “friendly, generous or considerate nature,” according to The New Oxford American Dictionary — not to turn a blind eye in the decision to be “friends” with those who have been inconsiderate and discriminatory toward others and label that as “kindness.”
Had DeGeneres just let the initial commenters be, it’s hard to believe she would have received nearly as much backlash as she has now. The larger problem at hand is not that she sat next to Bush, but rather that she used her platform to pardon his behaviors on behalf of multiple communities and individuals who may not actually agree with her after all.
Hundreds of thousands of people sit and watch “The Ellen Show” every day, and it’s disappointing to see DeGeneres push “kindness” as giving a “pass” to those who frankly may not deserve it.
DeGeneres has every right to be friends with and forgive people like Bush and Hart who “disagree” with her — but others don’t have to. If a “friend’s” actions pose another’s existence as lesser, perhaps there should be some deeper thought behind what “kindness” really means.