Bill Maher confronted head-on the storm that has raged since last week’s “Real Time,” when he used the N-word during an interview.
“Thank you for letting a sinner in your midst,” he said on Friday’s show, getting thunderous applause from the audience. “Michael Eric Dyson will be out here shortly to take me out to the woodshed.”
Maher was speaking of Georgetown sociology professor, Michael Eric Dyson, a frequent “Real Time” guest who has offered up words of wisdom on various topics through the years.
“Unfortunately, this week I find that I’m the news maker,” Maher said, greeting Dyson. “I wanted you to come by here because I want you to school me. I did a bad thing.”
“A very bad thing,” Dyson agree without hesitation. “Look, in the past you’ve been the person who is been on the front line saying the left shouldn’t apologize, progressives should resist any sense of complicity with the culture that is too apologetic. Yet you find yourself in the hot seat here tonight. What led to that change of mind?”
Maher answered, “Honestly, I’ve said both. I remember when Mitt Romney was running, he had a book, ‘No Apologies.’ Like Americans should never apologize. But I said no, apologies are sometimes appropriate … this is appropriate.”
The host went on to add, “For black folks, that word, I don’t care who you are, has caused pain. I’m not here to do that.”
Maher mentioned Sen. Ben Sasse, who Maher was interviewing when he jokingly called himself a “field n—er.”
“It’s not his fault … It’s all on me,” Maher said. “The comic mind goes to a weird place sometimes. But it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t said in malice — if it brought back pain to people, and that is why I apologize freely… and I reiterate it tonight. That’s sincere.”
This is not the first time Maher has gotten in trouble with something he’s said, all in the name of comedy. “I don’t want to pretend that this is more of a race thing than a comedian thing, Comedians are a special kind of monkey. We are a trained thing that tries to get a laugh. That’s what we do. That’s what we’re always thinking. … but sometimes we transgress a sensitivity point.”
The former “Politically Incorrect” host proved he was still politically incorrect on last Friday’s “Real Time” when Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse spoke of manual labor as a way of building character and maturity. When Maher said he had to get to Nebraska more often, Sasse said he’d be welcome, adding with a grin, “We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.”
Maher threw his hands up and said, “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house n—er.”
Within hours, social media took aim at the comedian. Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, backed out of appearing on Friday’s show.
The day after Maher’s comment, HBO issued a statement calling it “completely inexcusable and tasteless.” The network said the joke would be removed from future airings.
Shortly thereafter, Maher issued an apology through a spokesperson, saying, “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.”
Watch the full interview above.