Ellen DeGeneres ruffled feathers (and then some) on Monday after she defended her friendship with former U.S. President George W. Bush on her daytime talk show. “Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them,” she told the audience (and over 28 million viewers to date on Instagram and Twitter combined). “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,” she said.
DeGeneres’s take earned the praise of many, including fellow celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Kendall Jenner, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Orlando Bloom, and Lenny Kravitz.
However, many also took issue with DeGeneres and co.'s willingness to overlook Bush’s history, including his decision to march the country into war in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 250,000 civilians, according to a study by Brown University. He has also been accused of war crimes.
Some went as far as to categorize the social media division as more of a class conflict than a partisan issue.
Jameela Jamil was one of the few celebrities to publicly take the opposition, tweeting that she’s “learning today about the full extent of Bush’s heinous presidency” and can “now understand the rage.”
This response elicited a backlash of its own, with people tweeting that she should have known earlier, as she was in her twenties when he left office.
Jamil combated detractors by pointing out that 1) she didn’t grow up in America, and 2) she’s taking the time to learn now.
Mark Ruffalo, too, criticized DeGeneres’s plea for kindness.
This isn’t the first time that DeGeneres has been demonized or called "out of touch" for letting a public figure off the hook for their past indiscretions. She sparked outrage in January when she encouraged Kevin Hart to host the Oscars despite his reluctance to apologize for homophobic jokes he’d made years prior, and then stood with Jussie Smollett after reports that he was the victim of a hate crime circulated but were then questioned.
Perhaps kindness and a willingness to hold people accountable don’t need to be mutually exclusive?