Jenna Bush Hager breaks silence on dad George W. Bush's friendship with Ellen DeGeneres


Jenna Bush Hager is speaking out in defense of her father George W. Bush's controversial friendship with Ellen DeGeneres.

The unlikely duo's relationship was spotlighted after they were spotted sitting together with their respective significant others at a Dallas Cowboys game in early October, prompting a week-long backlash aimed particularly at DeGeneres, with critics pointing to Bush's anti-gay history and divisive politics as points of contention.

At the time of the controversy, Hager was on maternity leave after welcoming her third child in August, which left her a bit out of the loop as countless celebrities and public figures weighed in on the story.

"I was on maternity leave so I didn’t read all the bad stuff, but I was also taught as a child if there was bad things being written about anybody I love, I sort of ignored that," she told People in a new interview. "I just saw the goodness in it."

The "Today" show personality said that she "personally thought [their friendship] was great," adding that she yearns for more cross-the-aisle friendships amid the United States' continued divisiveness.

"I personally, and I think so many of us, miss a time where people who have different opinions get along," Hager 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."

"And so just like Ellen, my dad does that," she went on. "And if you ask anybody that’s worked for him or knows him, plenty of the people that worked for him have different opinions or different lifestyles, thought different things and felt comfortable sharing that with him because he’s open."

Hager continued by saying that it's in her father's nature to connect with people who "think differently than him," saying that it's a lesson that she and her twin sister, Barbara, were encouraged to live by as they were growing up, as well.

"My dad likes people that think differently than him, that believe differently, and people are surprised by this. But my parents raised both Barbara and I had to have our own opinions," she said. "Barbara and I were sitting around the kitchen table, and obviously we talked about a lot of mundane things, but if we had opinions we were allowed to share them."

DeGeneres and Bush first made headlines back on October 6, with Twitter calling them sitting together with Laura Bush and Portia de Rossi a "Sunday shocker."

The next day, the talk show host delivered a lengthy monologue defending her decision to sit with her "friend" in Dallas.

"When we were invited, I was aware that I was gonna be surrounded with people from very different views and beliefs, and I'm not talking about politics: I was rooting for the Packers," DeGeneres joked at the time. "During the game, they showed a shot of George and me laughing together, so people were upset. They thought, 'Why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?"

"Just because I don't agree with someone on everything, doesn't mean that I'm not gonna be friends with them," DeGeneres added. "When I say be kind to one another, I don't mean only the people who think the same way that you do; I mean be kind to everyone."