Bill Maher Says the N-Word on Real Time and Sparks Controversy

He made his comments on Real Time With Bill Maher Friday

By Corinne Heller Jun 03, 2017 2:43 PMTags
Bill Maher, Real Time With Bill MaherHBO

UPDATE: Bill Maher has issued an apology.


Comedian Bill Maher offended scores of people by uttering a racial slur while making a joke on HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher and became the top Twitter trending topic Saturday morning.

The host interviewed Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska Friday. The political leader was promoting his book The Vanishing American Adult and the two discussed the maturity of people, namely younger people. Maher said that in California adults dress up for Halloween. Sasse said this is "frowned upon" in his own state.

"I've got to get to Nebraska more," Maher said.

"You're welcome," Sasse replied. "We'd love to have you work in the fields with us."

"Work in the fields? Senator, I'm a house n----," Maher said, raising his hands and drawing groans and laughs from the audience, while Sasse laughed uncomfortably.

"No, it's a joke," Maher said.

The two went on to discuss politics as usual.

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Maher, who has pushed the envelope with his on-air jokes before, drew angry reactions from viewers on Twitter.

"For @billmaher to just use that word and play it off as a joke on air shows me his real colors. #FireBillMaher," wrote user @Dexter_A_Taylor.

"But really, @BillMaher has got to go. There are no explanations that make this acceptable," tweeted DeRay Mckesson, a Black Lives Matter movement activist. 

Some people defended Maher.

HBO later released a statement, saying, "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," according to

Meanwhile, Sasse took to Twitter Saturday morning to offer his belated thoughts.

"Am walking off a redeye from LAX. 3 reflections on @billmaher 1. I'm a 1st Amendment absolutist. Comedians get latitude to cross hard lines," he tweeted. "But free speech comes with a responsibility to speak up when folks use that word. Me just cringing last night wasn't good enough."

"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,'" he wrote.