Depending on how long after Friday night you are reading this, you may or may not be aware that Bill Maher, the popular liberal political commentator who has been hosting Real Time for the past 15 years, used the phrase “house nigg*r” on the nationally broadcast show last night. Some might figure Maher’s use of the toxic slur was an unfortunate slip of the tongue on his part (although that would in no way excuse any distasteful behavior), but other very prominent sources think it was a planned-out and strategic move.
The Inquisitr has already published a detailed report of the incident. Basically, Bill Maher’s guest, Ben Sasse, is the governor of Nebraska and joked that he would love Maher to come work in one of the state’s many corn fields.
“Work in the fields?” Maher shot back in mock perplexity. “Senator, I’m a house nigg*r.”
And yes, it did have a hard “r.”
As the previously published Inquisitr piece notes, users across social media are horrified. The name “Bill Maher” is currently the #1 trending term on Twitter, and it has been for hours. Sure, the sudden boom in awareness of Bill Maher and his show is for all the wrong reasons, but some websites, such as AV Club, think Maher probably set out to say something offensive to gain more exposure.
“Perhaps Maher thought it would be good for ratings, as the controversies he inevitably drops on himself — attacking Muslims, denouncing vaccinations, serving as a platform for bleached a**holes — usually are.”
If you’re confused about the “bleached a**holes” comment, it was the site’s way of referring to Bill Maher having maligned hate-monger Milo Yiannopoulos on his show and airing Yiannopoulos’s offensive ravings to millions of people.
Most sources who comment on the issue agree that as unfortunate as it may be, Bill Maher has a long history invoking the principle of any press being good press.
More opinionated pieces make the same point and argue that Maher basically threw racial sensitivity and common decency to the wind in exchange for a spot at the top of the headlines.
“This is not the first time Maher has crossed the line or shown himself to be troll for ratings,” reiterates Monique Judge, an African-American writer for The Root.
“Bill Maher is disgusting, and his time in the limelight is long past over. Real Time With BillMaher needs to be canceled immediately….Bill Maher proved once again on Friday night that he doesn’t care about black people or blackness; we are all just props to him, and co-opting our women, our language and our oppression is just a ploy to make himself seem edgy and hip.”
As many critics of the situation note with disgust, the in-studio audience laughed as if Maher really had made one of his typical wisecracks, and Ben Sasse did not object or even look noticeably offended.
“It’s a joke,” Maher insisted several seconds later, suggesting that even he realized he might have crossed a line.
From what the sources discussed earlier are theorizing, it would seem that Maher made the controversial comment hoping that it would offend some people and stir up some free press, albeit of a negative bent. Eventually, the specifics of the situation would blow over, subtracting the unfavorable aspect of the buzz and only leaving the increased exposure.
Has Maher really gone too far this time, though, even for his clearly offensive strategy for garnering publicity? Will his (former?) viewers actually “forget the specifics” at some point down the road?
Maher has indeed gotten flack a few times in the past for what he has done on his show, but what with the high-profile celebrities tweeting their disgust with Bill Maher, it’s uncertain whether this one will blow over, too.
“Unacceptable. And the audience applauds!?! So hurtful,” posted Danielle Brookes of Orange Is the New Black.
Unacceptable. And the audience applauds!?! So hurtful. https://t.co/V5yAk9C9ON
— Danielle Brooks (@thedanieb) June 3, 2017
“But really, @billmaher has got to go. There are no explanations that make this acceptable,” tweeted Deray McKesson, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement. “And why did the audience think it was okay 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
Only time will tell if the damage will fade or Bill Maher has put a permanent blotch on his record.
[Featured Image by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images]