Ellen DeGeneres has defended her friendship with former US president George W Bush after they were spotted sitting together watching the Dallas Cowboys at a game.

The chat show host, who is openly gay, was criticised for being friendly with the politician, who actively opposed gay marriage while in office.

Mr Bush, who was president for two terms from 2001 to 2009, is also controversial for leading his country into the war in the Middle East.

On Monday, during a taping of her TV show, DeGeneres addressed the backlash.

She said: “I’m friends with George Bush.

“I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs I have.”

DeGeneres said she and wife Portia were invited to watch a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers by her friend Charlotte Jones, whose father Jerry owns the Cowboys.

The 61-year-old said Jones had “fancy” friends, before showing her studio audience a video she took at the game in Dallas.

It showed her panning the camera around the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium before turning to her right to show Mr Bush, who broke into a grin.

DeGeneres said when she was invited to the game she was aware she would be surrounded by people with “different views and beliefs”, joking she was there to support the Packers.

She ended by telling her audience it was important to be friends with people who hold different views.

Mr Bush, 73 and the 43rd president of the US, was hugely controversial during his time in the White House but since stepping away from frontline politics has earned a softer reputation.

His friendship with former first lady Michelle Obama has been well documented and Mr Bush was spotted handing Mrs Obama a piece of candy during his father’s funeral.