White House keeps heat on ABC’s Maher

'Politically Incorrect' host subject of criticism for remarks

WASHINGTON — The White House once again slammed comments made by “Politically Incorrect” gabber Bill Maher about America’s fighting forces, this time suggesting that the latenight host is no different from people who utter intolerant statements about American Arabs in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

During the Sept. 17 show in question, Maher said there was nothing cowardly about flying a plane into a building; what was cowardly was lobbing a cruise missile from far away, as the U.S. military has been known to do.

Although Maher has publicly apologized to those viewers he may have offended, the backlash won’t go away, with several midmarket ABC affils still not airing the program.

Last week, Maher’s muddle reached all the way to the White House, with press secretary Ari Fleischer declaring Wednesday that it was a “terrible” thing for Maher to say (Daily Variety, Sept. 28).

“There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is,” Fleischer said.

At a White House briefing on Friday, Fleischer was asked if he stood behind his earlier comments regarding Maher.

“I stand by what I said. It is always the right of an American to speak out,” Fleischer said. “But everybody has to be thoughtful about what they say as our nation goes into an increasing wartime footing.”

Fleischer lumped Maher into the same group of people who might make intolerant statements regarding Arabs or Muslims residing in the U.S. Since the terrorist attack, President Bush has repeatedly instructed the populace to refrain from making “intolerant” utterances.

Fleischer equated Maher’s comments to a phone message he received at the White House suggesting that all Muslims in this country be rounded up.

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