The former first lady, 55, was asked in a Today show interview on Tuesday about the recent dust-up over DeGeneres and Bush spending time together at a Dallas Cowboys game in October. The talk show host, 61, and former president, 73, were seated next to each other and seen smiling and chatting.
The moment inspired a slew of reactions on social media, including some backlash from those who took issue with DeGeneres being with Bush given his conservative politics and anti-gay history.
In a characteristic response, one user wrote on Twitter: “So quirky and fun to see George Bush out with Ellen at a Cowboys game after his terrible foreign policy decisions killed thousands of innocent people.”
Another Twitter user wrote, “As a gay man, my life and the rights I have are often under attack by people like George Bush …. He appointed judges who will likely try to take away my ability to live authentically at work.”
Watch part two of @MichelleObama’s interview with @jennabushhager about dropping her youngest daughter off at college, the 2020 election and her special friendship with former President George W. Bush. pic.twitter.com/wz9ZBAtpG6— TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 10, 2019
Obama has made her own headlines with her bipartisan bond with President Bush. He’s gone viral slipping her candy and she’s gone viral giving him a hug. Both are members of the group of former presidents and first ladies who regularly appear at state functions, including inaugurations, and they’ve grown closer over the years.
“I think you’re friends with both Ellen and my dad,” Hager told Obama on Today on Tuesday, before asking how she felt about people getting upset over DeGeneres’ relationship with Bush.
Obama replied, “I had an opportunity to sit by your father at funerals, the highs and the lows, and we shared stories about our kids and about our parents.”
“Our values are the same,” she said of herself and President Bush. “We disagree on policy, but we don’t disagree on humanity, we don’t disagree about love and compassion. I think that’s true for all of us — it’s just that we get lost in our fear of what’s different.”
Speaking with PEOPLE in a recent at-home interview, Hager said much the same when asked about the debate.
“I personally, and I think so many of us, miss a time where people who have different opinions get along,” she said. “And I yearn for that. I want my kids to realize that we live in a world when people are think tons of different things and we treat everybody with respect and kindness.”