- Ellen DeGeneres was spotted laughing with former President George W. Bush at an NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys Sunday.
- Critics slammed the apparent friendship online, referencing their opposing political views. Ellen responded on her show Tuesday, telling her viewers to treat everyone with kindness no matter their opinions.
- Celebrities like Mark Ruffalo and Susan Sarandon condemned her response while others like Reese Witherspoon and Kristen Bell supported her message.
- The comedian’s defenders faced their own backlash, including Jameela Jamil who reversed her initial praise.
Bush and DeGeneres Spotted Laughing at NFL Game
Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres has prompted a national debate about kindness in the face of political differences after she was seen laughing with former President George W. Bush at an NFL game on Sunday.
DeGeneres, who faced a heavy amount of online criticism following the event, addressed the backlash directly on Tuesday’s episode of Ellen.
“People were upset. They thought, why is this gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?” she said. “But a lot of people were mad and did what people do when they’re mad: they tweet. But here’s one tweet that I loved. This person says, ‘Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again.”
Other tweets directed at DeGeneres were less praiseful, with many people taking issue with Bush’s association with the Iraq War and his policies on LGBTQ rights.
“Ellen hanging out with her buddy G.W. Bush the war criminal and guy who called for a ban on same sex marriages…,” one user wrote. “Really, really low standards there Ellen, and pretty pathetic…”
In her response, DeGeneres explained that she didn’t know Bush would be at the game or sitting next to her, but she also said that was beside the point.
“Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush,” she 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 that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay that we’re all different.”
DeGeneres then continued, emphasizing her point by saying she didn’t agree with her friends who wear fur but that they were still her friends, another comment that eventually resulted in backlash.
“But just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them,” she continued. “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 everyone.”
Celebrities React to Ellen’s Explanation
Even after Ellen addressed the concerns, many still criticized the comedian for boiling down the issue to a difference in opinions.
“George Bush, his administration, and his colleagues actively discriminated and worked against the LGBT community, of which you are a member,” one person tweeted.
Some of that criticism even came from fellow celebrities, including Mark Ruffalo and Susan Sarandon.
“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),” Ruffalo said, “we can’t even begin to talk about kindness.”
On the other side of the argument, celebrities such as Kristen Bell and Blake Shelton praised DeGeneres for her commitment to kindness.
“She’s my [Queen]” Bell said in an Instagram post.
Reese Witherspoon also thanked DeGeneres, calling her message an important reminder; however, soon after receiving backlash of her own, she deleted her tweet.
“The privilege reaks,” one person said in response to Witherspoon. “There are thousands of people in the middle east who don’t get to be friends with people with “different views” because they’re dead thanks to [Bush]. And he spent his presidency trying to strip away LGBT rights, so nah. This monologue is pure class privilege.”
Jameela Jamil Defends DeGeneres
In a somewhat similar situation to Witherspoon, Bell’s The Good Place co-star Jameela Jamil backtracked her praise of DeGeneres after “learning” from criticism directed at her.
“I’ve never seen someone in the public eye handle something like this, in this way,” Jamil, 33, said in the Tuesday tweet. “And use it to make what is actually an incredibly necessary point in our society. It was just very strong and interesting.”
The following morning, Jamil deleted her initial posts and followed up by saying:
“Ooooof learning today about the full extent of Bush’s heinous presidency… we weren’t taught much about him at school, we just heard he was stupid…(we were dealing with our own epic nightmare of a prime minister back then). What a monstrous leader. I now understand the rage..”
Jamil, who is British, still faced backlash following her second tweet, this time from people pointing out that she was 23 when Bush left office. The criticism then prompted Jamil to once again respond.
“Very interesting to see some pompous responses from people because someone from the other side of the world didn’t learn about a president in your country when they were a teenager,” she said Are you experts on all world leaders from back then? Ridiculing learning and growth is weird.”
“I love learning and growth and massively applaud anyone who says they don’t/didn’t know the answer and seeks it out,” she continued. “I personally think that’s cool and hope that we all feel safe to do that, so we can all evolve together. #progressnotperfection”
See what others are saying: (USA Today) (Fox News) (The Independent)
Comedian Gives David Beckham Ultimatum: Exit Role at Qatar World Cup Or £10K in Donations Gets Shredded
“Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon will be shredded,” Joe Lycett said in a video.
Pressure on Beckham
Comedian Joe Lycett posted a video on Sunday saying he would shred £10,000 if soccer star David Beckham does not pull out of his deal to be an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup.
Ahead of the event, which kicks off on Nov. 20, many have been raising concerns about human rights abuses in Qatar. The country criminalizes homosexuality, and it can be punishable by death.
Beckham’s deal to represent the country was reportedly worth £10 million, and many are frustrated that the athlete took such a big check from a country with known anti-LGBTQ laws. In his video, Lycett noted that Beckham has been openly supportive of his gay fans and was the first premiere footballer to do a photoshoot with a gay magazine.
In an attempt to get Beckham to bow out of his role, Lycett, who is pansexual, offered an ultimatum.
“If you end your relationship with Qatar, I’ll donate this £10,000 of my own money, that’s a grand for every million you’re reportedly getting, to charities that support queer people in football,” he stated. “However, if you do not, at midday next Sunday, I will throw this money into a shredder.”
“Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon will be shredded.”
Beckham’s Reputation “Shredded”
Lycett said he would livestream the money shredding if that’s what the situation comes to. If Beckham does not back out of the World Cup, Lycett noted he will be forced to “commit what might be a crime,” as destroying legal tender is against the law in the U.K.
“Although even then, I reckon I’ll get off more lightly than I would if I got caught whacking off a lad in Doha,” Lycett quipped.
Lycett then linked to a website titled https://benderslikebeckham.com/, which includes a written version of his message, as well as a countdown to when he will either shred the cash or send it to a non-profit.
Lycett is not the only U.K star to raise concerns about issues in Qatar. Singer Dua Lipa shut down speculation that she would be performing at the World Cup over the weekend by saying she has no intentions to visit the country until “it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host” the event.
Other stars, however, including BTS’s Jung Kook, are slated to take the stage.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Hollywood Reporter) (BBC News)
Federal Judge Dismisses Dave Portnoy’s Lawsuit Against Insider
The online personality called the decision “disappointing” but not “overly surprising.”
A federal judge in Massachusetts dismissed a defamation lawsuit Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy filed against Business Insider, several outlets reported on Monday.
According to a report from The Washington Post, Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV decided that Portnoy did not successfully prove that the news outlet acted with “actual malice” or “reckless disregard for the truth” when it published two articles about his sexual relationships.
The first article, published in Nov. 2021, detailed stories from women who said they had “violent” and traumatizing sex with Portnoy. A second piece was published in Feb. 2022 and includes sources who said Portnoy filmed sexual encounters without consent.
Portnoy has repeatedly denied the allegations and maintained that the sexual encounters were consensual and positive. He sued Insider in February following the publication of the second article.
Per The Post, Saylor tossed the complaint because it did “not allege that Insider’s anonymous sources were fake, or that the articles misrepresented what the women told [Insider’s reporters].”
“Furthermore, plaintiff admits that Insider investigated its first article for months, requested an interview with him, sought his comment before publication, included his denials, and hyperlinked to his news conference and his lawyer’s full denial letter,” the judge’s decision continued.
Saylor also noted that Insider corroborated their sources’ claims with photos, texts, medical reports, receipts, and accounts from their friends.
While Portnoy argued that these stories were an invasion of privacy as they pertained to his private sex life and the women involved were not his employees, Insider held that their claims were relevant.
“When a rich, famous, and powerful person uses their power in a way that is harmful to other people, it is newsworthy,” Nicholas Carlson, Insider’s Global Editor-in-Chief, previously wrote in an editor’s note.
Saylor largely agreed with that, saying that issues of consent and power are part of “legitimate public interest,” including in instances that arise outside “the employment context.”
An Insider spokesperson told The Post that the outlet is “pleased and gratified that the judge dismissed his complaint.”
“We knew from the start that our reporting was careful, fair, and accurate, but it’s gratifying to see that validated in court,” Julia Black, one of the reporters named in the lawsuit, tweeted in response to the news.
For his part, however, Portnoy has criticized the judge’s decision, calling it “disappointing” but not “overly surprising.”
“Every single lawyer said it was an uphill battle, every legal expert said it was an uphill battle, that it’s almost impossible for a public figure to prove defamation,” he said in a video posted to Twitter. “The laws are stacked against me.”
Portnoy said that he turned in texts and other evidence he believed would prove the sexual encounters were positive but claimed “the judge didn’t even really look at the evidence.”
He later read an excerpt from the judge’s decision that said Portnoy “can’t seek to prove actual malice by challenging statements that defendants did not publish.”
“In other words: Business Insider did not publish any of my shit, I can’t talk about it, it’s not part of the case,” Portnoy explained. “It’s inadmissible.”
He said he could appeal the decision if he wanted, but added he was not optimistic about how that would turn out for him. He floated the idea of suing the sources themselves, noting he thinks he would stand a better chance in such a case.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Post)
Megan Thee Stallion, Drake, and More Sign Letter in Support of Restricting Rap Lyrics as Evidence
The letter claims the use of this evidence is a “racially targeted practice” that “punishes already marginalized communities and their stories.”
“Protect Black Art”
Megan Thee Stallion, Drake, and a slew of other major artists signed an open letter on Tuesday calling for politicians to restrict the use of rap lyrics as evidence in court.
The letter, titled “Art on Trial: Protect Black Art,” argues that “more than any other art form, rap lyrics are essentially being used as confessions in an attempt to criminalize Black creativity and artistry.”
It follows statements from other advocates who claim that police and prosecutors are eager to interpret rap literally instead of treating it as a creative form of expression. By doing so, critics say they ignore the storytelling techniques, figurative language, and hyperbole that are often used in the genre, and weaponize those lyrics against their creators.
Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill that aims to limit the use of rap lyrics in court by requiring prosecutors to prove lyrics meet certain criteria and do not display a racial bias before submitting them. State legislators in New York are also weighing a bill with similar goals, and on the federal level, a bill titled the “RAP Act” was introduced in Congress over the summer.
Tuesday’s letter urged state and federal politicians to pass these bills and others like it. It also encouraged prosecutors to drop the practice voluntarily.
Jack Harlow, Future, DJ Khaled, Camilla Cabello, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Normani, Travis Scott, and Christina Aguilera were among the slew of other stars who signed the letter. Record labels like Warner, Universal, and Def Jam joined the list, as did platforms like Spotify, Tidal, TikTok, and YouTube Music.
Rap in Court
According to Warner Music Group, experts have found over 500 cases where rap was used as evidence, and that is likely an undercount as several kinds of cases and proceedings were excluded from that figure. On the other hand, those experts found only four instances since the 1950s where non-rap lyrics were used as evidence, and three of those cases were tossed while the other was overturned after conviction.
The letter used Young Thug and members of the Young Stoner Life label, who are currently facing dozens of charges, including ones that accuse the label of being a criminal gang, as an example of this issue.
“The allegations rely heavily on the artists’ lyrics, which prosecutors claim are ‘overt evidence of conspiracy,’” the letter said. “In the indictment, Fulton County prosecutors argue that lyrics like ‘I get all type of cash, I’m a general,’ are a confession of criminal intent.”
The letter claims that using an artist’s words against them in this manner is “un-American” and “simply wrong.”
“Beyond the obvious disregard for free speech and creative expression protected by the First Amendment, this racially targeted practice punishes already marginalized communities and their stories of family, struggle, survival, and triumph,” it continues.
Julie Greenwald, Chairman & CEO of Atlantic Music Group, released a statement arguing that the freedom for musicians to form characters and narratives is “essential to the creative process and the role of art in society.”
“The harsh reality is that Black artistic creativity is being threatened at an unprecedented level, and we must make every effort to stop this unethical, discriminatory approach to prosecution,” Greenwald added.