Comedian Bill Maher just can't keep his name out of the headlines -- a fact, I assume, he's more than content with. After all, any publicity is good publicity, right?
Following plenty of drama over his own disparaging words about women, Maher has waded into the Sandra Fluke vs. Rush Limbaugh waters over the past week to share his assessment of the controversy. In an interview with ABC's Jake Tapper, the comedian drew distinctions between himself and Limbaugh, while seemingly doubling down on his past negative commentary.
Following a Tweet he sent last week saying that liberals look bad not accepting Limbaugh's apology to Fluke, Maher had plenty more to say on his HBO program. So, on Friday, he openly defended Limbaugh's free-speech rights on "Real Time," but also continued his assault on the radio host.
"No one died. A guy made a bad joke. A bad joke because it was a disgusting sentiment that he was evoking, and also because it wasn’t even a joke," he said. "He’s a stupid fat f–k who’s not funny."
In his interview with Tapper, Maher, who has come under fire for calling Sarah Palin the c-word (among other disparaging comments against women), sought to separate himself from Limbaugh.
"I’m a comedian – not just a guy who says he is, like Rush, but someone who – well, you saw me do stand-up last year in D.C. There’s a big difference between just saying you’re a comedian and going out and getting thousands of people to laugh hard for 90 minutes," he proclaimed.
When asked how he knows when he's gone too far, Maher had an intriguing response: "I let the audience be the guide." Then, rather than apologizing, he seemed to double down on his words against Palin, invoking the praise he apparently received for uttering them:
"The bit I did about Palin using the word c—, one of the biggest laughs in my act, I did it all over the country, not one person ever registered disapproval, and believe me, audiences are not afraid to let you know. Because it was a routine where that word came in at just the right moment. Context is very important, and it’s also important to remember that stand-up comedy is the final frontier of free speech. Still, I stopped doing that routine, but I would like someone to replace that word if it’s so awful with another one that has the same meaning for a person – not just women, it’s a word you can and lots do (all the British, for example) use for both sexes. It has a very specific meaning."
It should be noted that common practice in America, unfortunately for Maher, does not generally include the wider, unisex definition of the word that he used. Since context is key -- at least according to his own words -- that's certainly worth noting.
When pressed by Tapper to differentiate between the c-word and what Limbaugh said about Fluke, Maher called the comparison "ridiculous."
"[Limbaugh] went after a civilian about very specific behavior, that was a lie, speaking for a party that has systematically gone after women’s rights all year, on the public airwaves," he said. "I used a rude word about a public figure who gives as good as she gets, who’s called people 'terrorist'and "unAmerican.'"