In a statement issued to Philly.com Saturday morning, HBO said “Real Time” host Bill Maher’s use of a racial slur was “completely inexcusable” and that the network will edit the word out of future airings of the show.
"Bill Maher's comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless," HBO said in its statement. "We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show."
HBO has not yet said it will remove Maher, a left-wing political commentator and comedian, from his popular show, suggesting Maher’s job is, at least for now, safe.
The controversy arose when Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) invited Maher to visit his home state to work in the fields. In response to Sasse's invitation, Maher said jokingly, “Work in the fields? Senator, I am a house n***er."
Almost immediately after Maher made the comment, numerous people on social media called for him to be fired or punished.
Sasse, who appeared visibly shocked by the comment, didn’t say anything in response to Maher, prompting backlash against him as well. On Saturday, Sasse issued a series of tweets saying he wishes he had said something in response and that Maher’s comment was “an attack on universal human dignity.”
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.— Ben Sasse (@Ben Sasse)1496485183.0
2. But free speech comes with a responsibility to speak up when folks use that word. Me just cringing last night wa… https://t.co/x6t460BqRv— Ben Sasse (@Ben Sasse)1496485280.0
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… https://t.co/dq74b2YzsN— Ben Sasse (@Ben Sasse)1496485456.0
(4of4) "...The history of the n-word is an attack on universal human dignity. It’s therefore an attack on the Ameri… https://t.co/wciCKhjGVN— Ben Sasse (@Ben Sasse)1496485646.0
As Philly.com writer Rob Tornoe noted in an article published Saturday, this isn't the first time Maher has said something extremely offensive. In 2001, Maher was fired from his ABC show "Politically Incorrect" for making an insensitive comment about the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
“We have been the cowards," Maher said. "Lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building. Say what you want about it. Not cowardly.”