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Ellen and Dubya: Is She the New Mr. Rogers?

Not even celebrities can agree on a response to DeGeneres-Bush controversy
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 10, 2019 11:47 AM CDT

(Newser) – Ellen DeGeneres' explanation of her controversial friendship with George W. Bush is garnering both praise and criticism. Even among the celebrity set there's disagreement over whether she's to be praised or roasted for her declaration that, "When I say 'be kind to one another,' I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone." Some of the reactions:

  • Fox News reports that both Reese Witherspoon and Kristen Bell supported DeGeneres on social media, but both received backlash for that support and Witherspoon appears to have since deleted her tweet, which thanked DeGeneres for "the important reminder." Bell's Instagram post, which is currently still online, referred to DeGeneres as her queen. While some comments were supportive, many were not. Sample: "Oof. Nope. Differing opinions is one thing. An opinion that intentionally oppresses or harms another life? NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. You’re better than this."
  • Among the celebrities slamming DeGeneres was Susan Sarandon, who tweeted a link to a column from Out pointing out that "it’s not about what Bush thinks. That’s not the issue—it’s about what he did over and over again while he was in office and who those policies harmed."
  • Also Mark Ruffalo: "Sorry, until George W. Bush is brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War, (including American-lead torture, Iraqi deaths & displacement, and the deep scars—emotional & otherwise—inflicted on our military that served his folly), we can’t even begin to talk about kindness," he tweeted. He also linked to a column, this one a Vanity Fair piece noting there are limits to DeGeneres' brand of "unconditional kindness."

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  • Splinter rounds up even more big-name support for DeGeneres, including from Blake Shelton, Tulsi Gabbard, David Axelrod, MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle, Tony Robbins, Piers Morgan, Sen. Susan Collins, and even the licorice company Red Vines. A previous Splinter post quoted the site's deputy editor: "Don’t you just love it when America’s most beloved current talk show host participates in the continued whitewashing of the legacy of one of the worst and most despicable presidents of all time? What’s that you say about Iraq and Guantanamo and Katrina and waterboarding and, oh yes, very relevant for Ellen, the anti-gay bigotry? I guess Ellen can’t hear you."
  • At TruthDig, Jacob Bacharach, who last year wrote a piece entitled "The Liberal Rehabilitation of George W. Bush Is Complete" after Michelle Obama's embrace of the former president made headlines, says the "fundamental problem is that Americans are too nice. ... Niceness is not friendliness, not hospitality, not charity and not goodness. Niceness is the blank grin on the face of the psychopath: it is the public enactment of all the forms of love and kindness without the troublesome burden of loving anyone or treating people with kindness."
  • Meanwhile, Vice points to research showing that "rich people love hanging out with other rich people" and that those same rich people, as the site puts it, "only care about themselves."
  • A supportive column, however, came from Carol Roth, who writes at Fox News that DeGeneres is this generation's Mr. Rogers, "reminding those who needed it about humanity and differences being part of what makes us each special and our world interesting."
  • The official word from a Bush spokesperson: "President and Mrs. Bush really enjoyed being with Ellen and Portia [de Rossi] and appreciated Ellen’s comments about respecting one another. They respect her."
(Read more Ellen DeGeneres stories.)

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