Update: Bill Maher has issued an apology for using the N-word on Friday’s edition of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
Maher said in a statement: “Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I’m up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn’t have said on my live show. Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry.
A rep for Maher told Variety the comedian was traveling on Saturday and unavailable for further comment.
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We may have hit the moment of "peak outrage."
After months of liberal anger focused on Trump in particular, and the conservative right in general which culminated with last week's unfortunate attempt at "humor" by Kathy Griffin, in which a severed Donald Trump head reportedly cost her her career (in her own words), overnight Bill Maher did his best to take the heat off of Griffin by focusing the next round of social outrage - especially that emanating from the left - on himself.
As the Wrap notes, "the former Politically Incorrect host proved he’s still politically incorrect when Republican Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse invited Maher to “work in the fields.” Maher's reply prompted outrage among the liberal half of social media, as well as a barrage of calls aimed at HBO to fire Maher. Discussing his new book on Friday evening, the following exchange took place:
“I’ve got to get to Nebraska more," Maher said to Sasse.
“You’re welcome. We’d love to have you work in the fields with us," Sasse replied.
“Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house nigger. No, it’s a joke," said Maher.
Following the exchange, much of the audience laughed and clapped even as some audience members were heard to groan. Sasse kept quiet, before Maher said: “No, it’s a joke.” Neither Mr. Maher nor Mr. Sasse addressed the comments further, and the conversation moved to other subjects.
However, it was too late and the outrage was already flowing. DeRay McKesson, a Black Lives Matter activist and former Baltimore mayoral candidate, led the criticism on social media. “Bill Maher has got to go,” he wrote. “There are no explanations that make this acceptable” He added “And why does the audience think it was OK to laugh? And Ben Sasse doesn’t even flinch. What is happening in the world?"
And why did the audience think it was okay to laugh? And Ben Sasse doesn't even flinch. What is happening in the world?— deray mckesson (@deray) June 3, 2017
Somehow Trump was also thrown into the mix: “Trump has undeniably moved the posts re: what is acceptable in political discourse but we can’t sit idly by, as discourse breeds actions.”
Others joined in: “He said ‘n—er’ with a HARD ASS Rrrrrrrrrruh, so that makes this extra offensive,” said The Root writer Monique Judge, who added: “His show needs to be canceled.”
#CancelBillMaher because House niggas don't have TV shows, asshole.— Monique Judge (@thejournalista) June 3, 2017
if you excuse bill maher's racism and islamophobia because he rips trump regularly, you're not any better than hannity shilling for trump— Oliver Willis (@owillis) June 3, 2017
Some people are just now realizing how racist Bill Maher is? pic.twitter.com/9gI1pSh9DK— Akilah (@craziforlife) June 3, 2017
Kathy Griffin, now Bill Maher ! wow the left are eating themselves. TRUMP has them rattled!! #MAGA— Rick Kind (@UnkindToRicky) June 3, 2017
Folks are already defending Bill Maher talking context and comedy at the expense of Black folks. All of y'all can two step into the abyss.— Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick) June 3, 2017
Maher's white Californian liberal audience clapping for him saying he's a house nigger is why I know black folks are on our own in the USA.— Rod (@rodimusprime) June 3, 2017
.@billmaher is partly a result of permissive silence.— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) June 3, 2017
Folks gave him passes for Islamophobia, transphobia, sexism... and now?
I can't believe Bill Maher said something racist, said no Muslim ever. #realtime— Reza Aslan (@rezaaslan) June 3, 2017
Please @HBO Do Not Air Another Episode Of Real Time With Bill Maher.— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) June 3, 2017
People shocked at Bill Maher being racist-y, check w your Arab & Muslim friends. Been doing this for a LONG time, but he got hall passes.— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) June 3, 2017
Maher did not immediately comment in response to media inquiries. On Saturday, Sasse gave his view in a series of linked tweets. “Am walking off a redeye from [Los Angeles International Airport],” he wrote, before offering “three reflections on Bill Maher”.
“I’m a first amendment absolutist. Comedians get latitude to cross hard lines. But free speech comes with a responsibility to speak up when folks use that word. Me just cringing last night wasn’t good enough.
“Here’s what I wish I’d been quick enough to say in the moment: “Hold up, why would you think it’s OK to use that word?...
“... The history of the N-word is an attack on universal human dignity. It’s therefore an attack on the American Creed. Don’t use it.”
Will HBO follow in CNN's footsteps, which last week terminated its relationship with Griffin, and let Maher go or confirm that all the pent up outrage - on both sides of the aisle - is nothing more than a theatrical act meant to whip up audiences into a "peak outrage" frenzy? And if the use of the "N-word is an attack on universal human dignity" does that mean the regulators will ban hip hop songs where it just happens to be the most frequently used word for "commercializing" social anger, injsutice and hatred? So much hypocrisy, so little time.
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Update: accordinv to BuzzFeed, an HBO spokesperson said Maher's comment was "completely inexcusable and tasteless" and that they would remove it from re-runs.
Which means that Maher gets to keep his job, and also that the much anticipated and long overdue "peak social outrage" moment has been postponed until the next "socially awkward" and "politically incorrect" misstep in a society just dying to be outraged each and every day.