Following Friday night’s edition of Real Time with Bill Maher, it was pretty clear that the show’s host would be under fire. He dropped the n-word in the midst of a conversation with Senator Bill Maher, one that stunned both his guest and most of the audience. Sasse’s expression was one of pure awkward shock, not quite knowing what to do with himself — the fact that he didn’t come down on him right away following the remark is what now has him in hot water.
Following the show, Sasse released a series of posts on Twitter in which he tried to explain what was going through his head at the time:
1. I’m a 1st Amendment absolutist. Comedians get latitude to cross hard lines.
2. But free speech comes with a responsibility to speak up when folks use that word. Me just cringing last night wasn’t good enough.
3. 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.”
Meanwhile, HBO strongly condemned Maher’s use of the word in a statement of their own:
“Bill Maher’s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless. We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.”
To many out there calling for Maher’s dismissal, a simple strongly-worded statement is not going to be enough. HBO could still opt to do more, but for the time being, this is all that they’ve chosen to do. Maher clearly made the statement hoping to get a rise out of people, but the problem is that there was no need to do it within this context — and there is never a reason to do it with such language. The ball’s in HBO’s court now, but in the event they keep Maher, the bottom line will be what matters most. If this controversy leads to lower ratings, they’ll likely move on. Remember that they are not a subscriber-based network, so they don’t have the concern of losing sponsors over it.
You can head over here now in the event you missed our initial take on what Maher said, and how relying on shock value for comedy hurts the mode of entertainment. (Photo: HBO.)