On Friday night's episode of HBO's Real Time, Bill Maher sparked outrage after using a racial slur during an interview with Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska. Amidst controversy and calls for his termination, HBO has confirmed that Maher will return for a new episode this Friday.
Both liberals and conservatives have criticized the Real Time host for uttering the N-word during the live taping. When Maher commented to Sasse that he needed to travel to the Cornhusker State, the senator jokingly told him, "We’d love to have you work in the fields with us." Maher responded: “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house n—–," and the comment rightfully resulted in immediate backlash.
Although the show will go on this Friday, Maher's future at HBO is unclear — and at least one scheduled guest has already backed out of the June 9 episode. Senator Al Franken's rep has confirmed that the congressman cancelled his appearance due to the racial slur.
“Senator Franken believes that what Bill Maher said was inappropriate and offensive, which is why he made the decision not to appear on the next episode of Real Time,’” Franken’s statement reads. “He was glad to see Bill, whom the Senator considers to be a good friend, apologize and express sincere regret for his comment.”
On Saturday morning, HBO condemned Maher's remark as “completely inexcusable and tasteless.” The network added that it would "[remove] his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.”
Several hours later, Maher issued an apology: “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. “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.”
Sasse also responded to the controversy in a series of tweets, in which he expressed regret for not calling out Maher immediately: “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?...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,'" the senator wrote.
This isn't the first time Maher has ignited controversy. Just six days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks claimed 2,606 lives, he challenged George W. Bush's statement that the hijackers were cowards.
“We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away,” Maher stated on his ABC show Politically Incorrect. “That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building. Say what you want about it. Not cowardly.”
Politically Incorrectly was cancelled shortly thereafter.