Bill Maher stepped over the line with his now infamous “house n*gger” quip, which he apologized for when the heat got too high. Now, the Real Time With Bill Maher host is suggesting that the word isn’t racist.
In June, Maher was speaking with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse when he made his ill-timed joke of being a “house n*gger,” and even invited Ice Cube onto the program to discuss the matter. Now Maher is pivoting and using the tired excuse of the word being used in comedic context instead of acknowledging the insensitivity and weight of the word.
In a discussion with the New York Times and humorist Fran Lebowitz, Maher not only said the n-word use isn’t racist but that people might have overreacted.
From the Times:
BM I think most people understood that it was a comedian’s mistake, not a racist mistake.
PG Your first guest on the follow-up apology show, Michael Eric Dyson, was pretty softball with you. But Ice Cube was righteously indignant. He wanted to hold you to account.
BM Listen, I hope we had a teachable moment about race: trying to make something good from something bad. But maybe also about how to handle something like this: apologize sincerely if you’re wrong — and I was — and own it.
PG Mission accomplished, as President Bush said.
BM But we don’t have to grovel, and we don’t have to admit things that aren’t true. When Ice Cube said something about my telling black jokes, I wasn’t going to be: “Oh, well, I made one mistake; I might as well admit mistakes I haven’t made.” I’ve never made black jokes. I’ve made jokes about racists. But my fan base knows that, so it never went anywhere.
Maher tap dancing around the issue and then washing his hands of what was an offensive moment is something he’s able to do as a white and powerful host of a beloved television program. An apology isn’t the same as an examination of the very thing that gave him comfort in using the term, so for him to think he “handled” anything is a false notion.
Of course, it’s just jokes, so get over it, Black people.