During Friday night’s episode of Real Time With Bill Maher, host Bill Maher used a racial slur when speaking with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska). The men were discussing Sasse’s book The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance. The Root transcribed the controversial portion of the conversation (trigger warning):
“Adults dress up for Halloween, they don’t do that in Nebraska?” Maher asked. “It’s frowned upon,” Sasse replied. “We don’t do that quite as much.” “I gotta get to Nebraska more,” Maher said. “You’re welcome; we’d love to have you work in the fields with us,” Sasse joked. “Work in the fields,” Maher scoffed. “Senator, I’m a house nigger.” “You still working in the fields out there, huh?” Maher said. “Yeah,” Sasse said. “We want our kids to suffer.”
The comment was followed by laughter from the audience. Maher added, “It’s a joke,” while waving his hand as though his racist comment was no bigs. Rolling Stone shares that the comment was not edited out when the show was rebroadcast at midnight EST either.
Sasse, who sat there while Bill Maher said the N-word on television and said absolutely nothing, responded in tweets later, writing: “ I’m a 1st Amendment absolutist. Comedians get latitude to cross hard lines.” He also issued this apology: “But free speech comes with a responsibility to speak up when folks use that word. Me just cringing last night wasn’t good enough.”
Bill Maher has not responded so far.
Maher issued an apology on Saturday:
“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,” Maher 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.”