How Will Emmy Voters React to Bill Maher’s Racial Slur Gaffe?

How Will Emmy Voters React to
Courtesy of HBO

Bill Maher has long been the Susan Lucci of the Emmys’ variety series category: His ABC platform “Politically Incorrect” landed eight straight nominations in the 1990s, while HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” has enjoyed a 10-year streak. But he’s never won.

Meanwhile, the variety landscape has become even more cluttered, so much so that the TV Academy split it into two fields: talk and sketch. The talk category is as bustling as ever, so the last thing anyone looking to land a nomination needs is a faux pas like the one Maher unleashed on last week’s episode of “Real Time.”

Speaking with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, Maher quipped, “I’m a house n—,” in response to Sasse playfully suggesting the host come work in his state’s fields. In the wake of Kathy Griffin’s controversial photo stunt last week, reaction to Maher’s remark was swift. HBO released a statement calling the host’s use of the racial slur “completely inexcusable and tasteless,” and Maher himself later apologized as well. Meanwhile, at least one prominent frequent guest, Al Franken, has backed out of an upcoming appearance.


real time with bill maher

Bill Maher Apologizes for Using N-Word on HBO’s ‘Real Time’

Maher has supporters in the controversy, including other frequent guests like rapper Killer Mike and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson. Many, however, are calling for his dismissal from the cable network. And Hollywood will have a chance to respond as well, as Emmy ballots are set to go out to TV Academy voters next week.

Awards may not seem to matter here, but in the bigger systemic picture, which affords someone like Maher the kind of privilege that allows him to think he could have gotten away with what he said to begin with, they do have an impact. The #OscarsSoWhite movement was about representation, for example. You cannot underestimate what “Moonlight’s” best picture victory, sullied as it was in the moment, meant for under-served voices. Choices made by these organizations are being scrutinized more than ever, so with Emmy season in full swing, the timing could not be worse.

Of course, the 61-year-old Maher has been in hot water before. “Politically Incorrect” was canceled in 2002 largely due to controversial remarks he made on the show within a week of 9/11. “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away,” Maher said at the time. “That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it — not cowardly.” Major brands pulled advertising from the show and soon enough, Sinclair Broadcast Group dropped “Politically Incorrect” from its ABC-affiliated stations.

But “Real Time” has been a haven from that kind of disruption. HBO has provided a much less restrictive platform for Maher, so it’s not entirely surprising that he would eventually stick his foot in his mouth to this degree. He and his show’s format have obviously done a lot of good in the socio-political discourse, but many have picked up that ball and run with it, whether Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” (which trumped “Real Time” at the Emmys for most of its run) or TBS’ “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” or HBO’s own “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the reigning champ in the category.

So Emmy voters, already facing a wealth of choices, will simply have to ask themselves whether Friday’s gaffe was a disqualifying moment. Should “Real Time” be excluded as a statement about what is and is not acceptable, or should its ongoing legacy and content otherwise be the driving force of consideration?

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  1. Jake pliskin says:

    Moyer if you didn’t have a whole shit load of money you won’t be having a little sluts at the Hefner rent a mansion. Keep up your good work Billy word has it. You better get a better security staff to take you to your drug binge slut houses but hole plug shows etc. tick tick tick tickhave fun enjoy

  2. JK says:

    Liberalism has all but encouraged the dismissal of context…when convenient of course.

    I find it entertaining the same ideology that would crucify the opposition given the same circumstances suddenly has figured out that context matters.

    I don’t care for Maher’s “dumb white liberal pandering” but he should not be punished.

  3. bliz says:

    Webster’s dictionary defines hypocrisy as: Ice Cube

  4. maladjust says:

    I saw that bit, and the only people angy at him are self-righteous and predominantly WHITE liberals. Context is important here, as always. And just him saying that racial slur does not disqualify him. He uses it to make a point and thats about it. Please be morally outraged and virtue signalling somewhere else. The current climate and language policing is awful and will not solve or diminish social problems.

    • bliz says:

      well, and the angry blacks that were the only ones attacking him on the show…but, yea, dumb white liberals…i dont recall maher being sandwiched by two fat white ppl lecturing him lol

  5. millerfilm says:

    All Maher has to do is keep checking off the standard liberal items: Open Borders, giving taxpayer money away to those who don’t want to work, giving our money away to foreign governments, open drug usage, etc. If he does that, he can say anything he wants to without any problem.

    • bliz says:

      u sound like a complete moron that doesnt understand the context of stand up comedian live on hbo on a friday night reorting to an idiot republican on a show branded as un-pc for two decades….but, yea, maher only said what he said because he has a checklist of braodly worded things that in actuality he doesnt even really discuss on his show….open borders is on bottom of mahers supposed rosetta stone checklist…fraggots

    • Eric in NJ says:

      Spot on observation, millerfilm.

  6. Jax Bondo says:

    Bill insults people all the time. But with all the insults flying on his show all the time, he forgot that in Hollywood you can insult everyone except blacks, gays, and Muslims. He needs to get back to insulting the President with dumb jokes and accusing him of incest. Also, his weekly insults directed at Christians, especially Catholics, are always delightful.

  7. Ellie Howard says:

    It’s evident that this clown is a Racist. Sickens me to look at him.

    • If you think he’s a racist you’ve never seen his show. He has spent years on the show, with his closest black friends speaking out against racism.

      • obloodyhello says:

        There are all kinds of racism, Jordan, and the closet liberal kind of “soft bigotry of low expectations” is endemic among liberals.

        The most obvious insult currently made to black people is the notion that voter ID is racist, because, you know, black people are too stupid and incapable of getting a picture ID, even though such a thing is utterly REQUIRED to open a bank account, get a job, buy alcohol, drive a car. No black person ever does things like that. Nahhh…. :-/

      • Well, considering Bill Maher was one of the people who coined the term “soft bigotry of low expectations” – I doubt he falls into the category. In fact I can’t think of any TV guy who has ever said that term.
        And then using an example of racism that Maher himself has never used. Is a strawman. Alas Maher isn’t a racist, with a big or small R.

  8. MariAnne Bolton says:

    I will continue to watch Bill. At least he doesn’t HIDE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS and say what’s on his mind, like MOST hypocritical White people.

  9. So you think paying a $500,000,000,000.00 tax World Wide will fix climate change do you. What makes you think the money won’t go to arming our enemies with Weapons Of Mass Destruction, To use on us! Will you be overseeing this cash. If the world is going to end, what makes you think taxing everyone will solve Climate Change or Global Warming! Where do you think everyone will come up with this money? Clearly the world will end some day. No one knows when. I will say the stars are right or conditions are right, right now. On another note; Supposedly Hillary or Obama helped Haiti with their problems with billions, they say. Lets ask them how much help they got. During the Earth Quake in Haiti, Did they ever get their water cleaned & the disease out of the waters? Let me tell you, You could buy a hundred dollars worth of Clorox Bleach and kill much of the disease in Haiti’s waters and clean the waters some too. Hows Haiti’s waters now? I’m curious. We could clean our water and it would help our atmosphere, or climate change. I was researching the planet Venus for a book Moon People 3 now in Kindle Fire. What I found out was Venus has the worse Climate Change or Global Warming (Green House Gas) in our solar system. I found out that the difference between Earth and Venus is Rain. On Earth our rain cleans our atmosphere that brings the pollution down to our surface and into our water ways, and then evaporates back into the air. If water is dirty, so will the air that evaporates. By cleaning our water, we are cleaning our atmosphere and helping with Global Warming. But there is more to our Global warming than just our atmosphere. Our Magnetosphere is weakening to the point, more Ion Particles are entering our atmosphere.There are other factors too. With all this said, How is taxing everyone going to help? I have a theory we can clean our waterways by treating them like we do our swimming pools. I do believe this can be done. In America we already have solar panels and wind mill generators. We are doing a great jog with Climate Change. More than many others world wide. Each country has their own obligation to their people to take care and clean their water ways. But you still have our magnetosphere problem to deal with. Have you ever magnetized a screwdriver. This may be the way we repair our Magnetosphere, who knows. All of this is just my opinion and not meant to hurt anyone, Thank you for your time and God Bless.

    • millerfilm says:

      I’m for moving forward with energy technology. But, yeah, giving money away to any foreign country is insane. Especially when we have infrastructure desperately in need of repair or replacement. And, the children who go to bed hungry and sick in our nation every night.

  10. Bill, Bill, Bill, How could you. I’m going to nick name you Wild Bill! LOL

  11. Sam Jones says:

    It was also a retort to what was likely perceived as a thinly veiled insult. Which in addition to the lack of literary pursuits in America, there is a vast degree of incomprehension when people do attempt to listen to someone speak, or on the outside change that pick up a book. I think that entire conversation was completely over their heads, because most of these crybabies cannot grasp that he called NO ONE any kind of slur directed towards any African Americans. He was speaking in the FIRST PERSON, that means he was the one that comment was directed at. As a person that is bt-racial. I do not find it offensive, particularly since he apologized. I do however find the fact that so many others can choose this situation and take the time to be offended for us, when it is not necessary, offensive. Itr is not the place of every person with their white guilt to weigh in on this problem. There are much more pressing things to worry about and this isn’t one of them. Donald Trump is still president and fucking us all over, in much bigger ways than calling anyone a slanderous version of the word Negro will ever do. Stop trying to tear down some one that is on our side, fighting the good fight and that has a voice. Remember, what they told us when we were kids, sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me. Well, lack of access to insurance and no jobs will send us to the poor house. No Social Security and Medicate and we will have no retirement, but names will still not hurt me. We can pick our battles and this is not a battle we should be choosing.

  12. gkn says:

    THAT is what everyone has their panties in a twist about? A word that’s heard in every other rap song and Lord knows how many movies? Plus he said “I’M a house n–“. It’s not like he called anyone else one. And yes, it was ultra clear that there no malicious intent.

    Grow up, people. You really can’t find more important things to talk about? This is Variety’s second rant, opps, article on the subject. And who cares about the Emmies? I hope Maher doesn’t, and I’m disappointed in Sen. Franken. He used to be intelligent, and a comedian.

  13. Bill B. says:

    It’s a great original show and he should have won by now, but I doubt he will even be nominated with the ballots just now going out.

  14. Nate says:

    I would be very happy to see Chelsea take his spot in the category.

  15. Cl Heyes says:

    Bill Maher’s liberal actions over decades speak far louder than one word. Maher has used his humor & celeb status to raise our political consciousness for decades. Clearly, his live audience knew his use of the “n” word on 6/2/17 had no malicious intent. If alt-left & right succeed in silencing Maher’s voice the USA will be the poorer for it.

  16. Linda McKelvey says:

    I am not a Bill Maher fan.
    I am not a racist.
    What I am is confused.
    “Nigga” is a word. A word that is said on the radio and in movies with regularity.
    The common use of this word in our culture has muddied Its connection to slavery and racism.

    In the black community the word “nigga” is used interchangeably with other words and has various connotations. The white community is exposed to the casual way the word is thrown around, and for those who are NOT racist, it’s just another word.

    If the word “nigga” is so vile and offensive, perhaps it needs to be treated that way by EVERYONE, and not used as a catchy lyric or joke by the very people who feel violated and outraged when a white person says it.

    • Pablito says:

      That’s not the n word he used. Stop defending him. He fucked up let him pay like the rest. There’s a double standard when it comes to the n word and it’s clear that only blacks can use it. Fine by me. Just don’t freak out when a white southern woman admits to have used it in the past any more than when a liberal not funny “comedian” does. Maher has been hiding behind his “comedian” status to get attention he could never get as a talk show host. He’s not funny ergo shouldn’t be labeled a comedian. So he must be a talk show host. If so the using the n word should get him fired if precedent sticks. He would be one of the loudest critics of anyone using the n word from the other side of his ideology. So screw him he deserves everything he won’t get from the liberal media establishment. That is unless he sexually harassed someone!

  17. David5309 says:

    This is nothing surprising. Bill Maher has shown himself time and again to be an ignorant bigot who thinks he is somehow better then everyone else. But that is his audience, and they want him to reinforce their opinions. They will stand up for him. “did you think someone who hosted a show called “Politically Incorrect” wouldn’t say something politically incorrect?” will be the cries of his fellow elitists

  18. David says:

    Let’s see: Al Franken backs out to promo his book. Sounds like the shot against PC heard round the tabloids.

  19. Alex Meyer says:

    For this year, yes, Bill Maher should be snubbed based on what he said. Besides people like Stephen Colbert and John Oliver are more relevant than him now.

    • Gary Middleton says:

      I don’t agree that Colbert is more relevant at all. Colbert was deep in the bubble and stunned by the election outcome, while Maher was sounding alarm bells right up to the day. Now liberals remain in a bubble while Maher aptly warns that the unlearned lessons will continue to empower Trump. Maher’s willingness to bite back at his own team makes him far more important than Colbert’s highly predictable blather.

  20. Sam G. says:

    They wanted to hang Paula Dean and what about the language Mrs. Clinton used belittling the black population that certainly helped put her cheater husband in the White House. I can honestly say I’ve watched Bill Maher routine no longer that thirty minutes in my lifetime. Zero talent, seldom funny. I think the TV test pattern is more interesting. A total dope.

  21. RL C says:

    Another example of all that is Hollywood; the most racists/sexists segment of our society yet worshipped by liberals everywhere. Got to love it when people who make $20-$30 million per film rant about income equality, deny minorities prominent roles for decades and underpay women by 50% yet are seen as the bellwether for all that is holy among liberals.

  22. Lisa M says:

    Maher is VERY unattractive, c’mon Variety, new lead story so I don’t have to see that puss everytime I come here now.

  23. plukasiak says:

    Maher’s comments should not disqualify him. The fact that he is now about provocation, instead of comedy and insight, already disqualified him.

  24. Ricky G Bost says:

    This is just free speech, those who don’t think so should bite the big one.

  25. Timely Comment says:

    A noted humorist using “questionable language”… AGAIN??

    Special snowflakes and droplets poo-pooing the disdain at such impolite usage. And it’s problematical to some eyes when language is used (“appropriated”) by a different race…

    But as ever, my rubric for judging someone’s air being expelled: WORDS, NOT DEEDS. It’s just vocabulary (which can be an indicator in itself), and NOT actions…

  26. Tim says:

    We seem to have forgotten the reason for the taboo. That is, the use of the word to diminish others in a racist manner. Maher did not do so. The real problem here is the fatuousness of a blanket prohibition, irrespective of context or meaning.

  27. Johnny Edinburgh says:

    Hollywood are biggest hypocrites out there, for example they treat Polanski like a God. If you are part of their in crowd and/or make them money then you get a pass.

  28. dvid mac says:

    Bill Maher….. is…. my voice… is… for people….. planet…..and profit. You will never never never never never stop his… HONEST FANTASTIC NEEDED VOICE. Hey Bill, cabt wait for whereever you broadcast, webcast …. me and millions and millions more NEED YOU AND WILL BE THERE!!!!! love you

  29. Gal Friday says:

    So, the voters will show their disapproval, by withholding yet another Emmy (?)

  30. Movie lover says:

    Wow, Variety really hates Bill Maher – and wants to profit from this ridiculous “outrage” as much as they can.

    HBO, if you cancel his show you will have contributed to an America in which freedom of speech has become a lie.

  31. Frank Russell says:

    Bill Maher needn’t worry. Progressive liberal elites will always support their own, no matter how racist Bill Maher is. As long as he’s one of them, he’ll be just fine. Heck, he might even have picked up votes. They’ll figure a way to spin this, a way to call him an “unorthodox hero” or some such social justice crapola.

    Just look at HBO! The public was aghast with horror over what Bill Maher did, clocking him in at second place to Kathy Griffin. Yet they issued a statement that they were happy he apologized. Hahhaha. They didn’t even suspend him let alone fire him. As long as you’re a Democrat, then you’re Teflon! Have a field day with racism and threats against the President, you’re good to go.

    Ironically, Fox News *fired* a racist Democrat recently when he made comments that were construed as racist. Bob Beckel intimidated that he was leaving his office because the IT technician sent to diagnose his computer was an African-America. In my many decades of life, I have witnessed more racism in liberals than conservatives.

    You KNOW liberals are having a bad month when Fox News is seen as the hero of social justice. That said, they’ll protect Bill Maher. He’s one of their icons, racist or not!

    God Bless America.

    • Frank, I’ve got to ask why you think Maher was really out of line? It’s a word that connotes servitude and involuntary labor, nothing more.

      When words are outlawed, only outlaws will have words.

      • Jonathan says:

        Fox News as the “Hero of social justice”? Yeah, tell that to Megan Kelly and the other women who were harassed by the self-righteous scumbags from that network.

  32. videosnark says:

    “Context: the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.”

  33. jim says:

    Love bill Probably my favorite comedian > I love what he does. Why he does his show live I will never know. My heart leaps every time he tells republicans the F$$$ themselves. He is needed in these times of the nonsense spouting republican noise machine.

  34. ProudBlack says:

    What astonishes me is that Maher feels entitled enough to disrespect millions of black people on TV without repercussions. He obviously felt nothing would happen to him for saying something so obviously ignorant and disgusting. And then to blame it on being Friday after a long week, instead of his inherent racism is the icing on the cake.

    • Colin Yapp says:

      He is not disrespecting black people. The statement was made for effect and also a dig towards the Republicans. Bill Maher, has never exhibited any hatred or racism towards blacks. He also has a penchant for black women but that does not mean much other than preference. Look, he was not calling anyone at “house n*****”, he simply countered the field comment. I don’t use the word but it is used so freely that now everyone believes it to acceptable. Until blacks, especially young blacks, understand how charged that word is, we will not see a reduction in it’s usage.

      • Pablito says:

        Nobody ever does anything until they do! You don’t know him. Just because he never said anything bad before you say he’s OK? Well he did now! And as others have commented many other people have suffered worse for much less. The words “acceptable” status as you say is very relative to who uses it. As a white man I can guarantee you my accepabilty of using the word is far different than yours. I amazes me that that can actually be trumped by political ideology. Perhaps you have a point as to how it’s acceptable in some circles.

  35. Noontime says:

    Bill Maher, another radical leftist POS, only with a much bigger nose.

  36. GERRY JONES says:

    Fiere him ! What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, he is a total idiot that spews bad crap all the time.

    Good Bye !

  37. Brett Kell says:

    Not the most brilliant, nor “politically correct”…
    Look at the context AND the whole interview; not that the GOP or their supporters will go that far
    Unfortunate choice of words by 1 who should know better – but there was no malice behind it whatsoever – to say there was is opportunistic and political

    • JK says:

      Brett – You’re implying that the left doesn’t take statements out of context?! Are you really just that blinded by the light or willfully ignorant?

      Small wonder liberalism is dead.

  38. akTed says:

    Saying Bill Maher has “obviously done a lot of good in the socio-political discourse” is like saying Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter has “obviously done a lot of good in the socio-political discourse”. Both sides are so far from center — ultra-extreme in their respective liberal an conservative biases.

    You (the author) show your own bias with that statement.

  39. Morris says:

    If this pig is even nominated it sends the clear signal that the “tolerant” TV industry is full of s***.

  40. MZ says:

    Move along, folks. There’s nothing to see here. Nobody was hurt in this minor accident.

    • Luther says:

      Except the dignity of every black person in America, but that’s minor, right?

      • @Damon, who’s dignity wasn’t violated.

        As an Actual White Person of mostly Scandinavian descent, I’d like to buy you a drink sometime :)

      • Marcus Holly says:

        I am black too, Damon Tammas, so you can speak for yourself. Perhaps you are okay with Bill Maher making slave jokes and using the N-word with impunity as if he was saying “Hi” but I certainly do not.

      • Damon Tammas says:

        As an actual black person, let me assure you my dignity was not assaulted, and I think this is a lot of noise over nothing.

  41. All I can simply say to anybody who doesn’t know the difference between the n-word ending in ‘a’ and ending in ‘er’ is that you don’t fully grasp the meaning or context in which Bill Maher used this word. I’m not defending him. His use of the word is tasteless, but let’s not pretend like Bill Maher is a racist or that he used that word in a racist context. He used it in the context of a joke, about himself. He did not disparage anybody, of any race, at all.

    It should still be frowned upon, though. Probably about as much as anybody frowned upon Diddy and Jonah Hill using the phrase “house n-word” in the movie Get Him to the Greek, 7 years ago.

  42. RPlisket says:

    If they vote like we did back in November, he’ll be given a lifetime achievement award.

  43. Raymond Bradley says:

    All you white people need to listen to a CD called Funkdafied by Da Brat. And get educated and then give Bill his job back. Might even be a few Black Folk out there they can get educated as well the truth will set you free

  44. RGallagher says:

    What do you mean “gaffe?” If a non-leftist, hard-working white guy made that comment, it would be called hate speech, racist, and all the other available negative epithets to paint the white man with. He spoke what was in his heart. His teeth just failed to block it from spilling out. It was surely a mistake, but it was real and he needs to be treated as stupidly as ordinary white Joe would be treated.

    • Someone says:

      First of all, oh is that the only reason people are saying this about Maher? Not because they believe it but just because that’s what people say to them when they say use the n-word directed at black people? Makes sense now. Secondly, by “non-leftist, hard-working white guy”, what you’re getting at is “someone who is racist but is forced to hide it publicly”. So sure when racists use the n-word it should be treated differently.

      • Someone, you’re aware of the fact that ethnic Jews are entitled to use the word? It was established back in the 70’s by none other that Mel Brooks in the now classic film “Blazing Saddles”.

        This is hardly news.

  45. Paul Chrastina says:

    The man is, and has always been, a pig.
    Once in a while, the truth of his inner feelings gets out
    and his comrades begin to chime, “It’s no big deal “.
    He’ll be forgiven by the liberals and life will go on.

    • Damon Tammas says:

      It’s amazing what you Trump voters will come up with. Bill is not the one who is a traitor to his country as well as being an adulterous misogynistic con artist. Yeah, ‘liberals’ will move on because they have much worse things to be concerned about, like the lunatics in the White House.

      • Marcus Holly says:

        Damon, shouldn’t you be getting off your massa’s computer about now and fetching him his slippers?

    • Bill Maher said the exact same words that Puff Daddy and Jonah Hill said in the movie Get Him to the Greek in 2010. Bill Maher is a comedian. That movie was a comedy. Context matters. It’s one thing to frown upon bad jokes, it’s another to pretend like there should be more outrage over Bill Maher saying it than Puff Daddy or Jonah Hill.

      • Char Diehm says:

        Yes, but it makes a difference if the speaker of the dreaded verbiage is black or white. If you are black it’s perfectly okay, if you are white, not so much b/c of course you have an agenda (it’s called racism). Mind you, the word is the same, the meaning is the same .. just who is using it is different. This is similar, although not the same as a woman adopting the term “bitch'” if she calls herself a “bitch” it’s a symbol of strength but if a man calls her a “bitch” it’s a negative and denigrating epithet.

        And so it goes … welcome to bi-polar America

  46. Joel Gannotti says:

    … and it is important because they are relevant! Really, out of touch rich and the multi generational wealthy and political non societal contributors are to be listened to. Please shun them all until they stop stealing and start working.

    • Ralph Shultz says:

      Bill Maher says things at times in ways that I don’t like, but come on now, fire him? I wonder if he had stated he was a “house slave” if that would have been understood differently? Looking at this from another angle, if a black person uses the N word that seems to be OK, but a white person better not. How does that work?

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