When the Today show’s Matt Lauer asked Ellen DeGeneres in a new interview if she would like to have President Donald Trump appear on her daytime talk show, she barely hesitated before saying, “Um, no.”
That line got laughs and applause from her own studio audience, which stuck around to see Lauer interview DeGeneres after he served as her guest this week. “Why wouldn’t someone like you want to sit down opposite the president of the United States?” Lauer wanted to know.
“Because I’m not going to change his mind,” DeGeneres replied. “He’s against everything that I stand for.”
DeGeneres said that she did meet Trump once during the early days of The Apprentice, even riding in his helicopter for a comedic bit, but has not spoken to him since he started running for president nearly two years ago. “We need to look at someone else who looks different from us and believes in something that we don’t believe in and still accept them and let them have their rights,” she added.
The Today interview comes on the heels of the 20th anniversary of the historic sitcom episode in which DeGeneres’ alter ego came out. One week before that, DeGeneres herself appeared on the cover of Time magazine next to the words, “Yep, I’m Gay.”
“I wish I would have done it sooner, I wish I hadn’t waited so long,” DeGeneres told Lauer. In the immediate aftermath of the episode airing, she said she received letters from people who said they were going to take their own lives and decided not to because of what she did.
She also got “death threats” and essentially “lost her career” for the next several years. “For three years, I couldn’t work,” DeGeneres said. “I was not offered one thing and I was running out of money and didn’t know if I was going to work again.”
The experience taught her “compassion” and that she was “strong enough to start all over again.” As she told Lauer, “It was the greatest thing to ever happen to me.”