Bill Maher, whose already questionable reputation was still in recovery from his February giggle fest with right wing troll Milo Yiannopoulos, is now completely tanked after he casually dropped the n-word into his Friday night conversation with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse.
Sasse, a Republican, was on HBO’s Real Time promoting his new book, The Vanishing American Adult, and discussion turned to the phenomenon of adults in California dressing up for Halloween. Do the people of Nebraska do that, Maher wondered?
“It’s frowned upon. We don’t do that quite as much,” Sasse said.
“I’ve got to get to Nebraska more,” Maher replied.
“You’re welcome. We’d love to have you work in the fields with us,” Sasse joked.
“Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house n—-,” Maher said.
Sasse chuckled along, though at some point the smile plastered to his face melted into a horrified grimace. The audience responded with a mixture of laughter and groans, and Maher spent some time waving his hands around, perhaps hoping to swat away the controversy before it really took off. It didn’t work.
HBO released a statement promising to scrub the comment from future airings, as though that solves the problem. From CNN:
“Bill Maher’s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless,” Quentin Schaffer, executive vice president for corporate communications at HBO, said in the statement. “We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.”
Unsurprisingly, the network’s limp apology wasn’t enough for many people who would rather see Maher step down rather than endure another misfire in the hackneyed name of “edgy comedy.”
What is happening in the world? Almost more remarkable than Maher dropping the slur in the first place was the apparent total ease with which he said it, implying that it’s in regular rotation in his vocabulary. Then again, it’s not like this isn’t well-trodden territory for him. Remember when he compared Zayn Malik to the Boston Marathon bomber, or when he declared that millions of Muslims supported the Charlie Hebdo slayings?
As for Sasse, the senator tweeted after the show that he regretted not saying something in the moment:
On one hand, Sasse was probably stunned into silence. On the other, he’s a politician—quick thinking and the ability to respond to rapidly changing circumstances is an essential part of the job. Also, Maher getting schooled by a Republican senator for his wildly inappropriate language would have been a heartwarming thing to behold. But alas, that would have been way too much to ask in 2017.
Update, 3:49 p.m.: Maher finally woke up and got around to composing a statement. Via Vulture:
“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,” he said in a statement. “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.”