HBO Calls Bill Maher’s Use of N-Word ‘Completely Inexcusable and Tasteless’

Bill Maher Real Time
Courtesy of HBO

UPDATED: HBO has responded to Bill Maher’s use of a racial epithet on Friday night’s episode of “Real Time,” calling it “inexcusable and tasteless.”

In a statement, HBO said, “Bill Maher’s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless.  We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.”

PREVIOUS: Bill Maher used the N-word on Friday night’s episode of “Real Time,” drawing outrage on social media.

His guest on the show was Senator Ben Sasse, who asked the host, “Would you like to come work in the field with us Maher responded, “Work in the fields? Senator, I am a house n—.”

The comment drew laughs and groans from the audience, but Sasse appeared to laugh along. Maher quickly added, “It was a joke.” But social media was not amused, with many calling for Maher to be fired.

Deray McKesson, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, wrote on Twitter, “But really, @billmaher has got to go. There are no explanations that make this acceptable.” He then added a follow-up tweet: “And why did the audience think it was okay to laugh? And Ben Sasse doesn’t even flinch. What is happening in the world?””

Actress Danielle Brooks, who stars in Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” echoed those sentiments, writing, “Unacceptable. And the audience applauds!?! So hurtful.”

Sasse responded to the growing outrage on Twitter, posting a series of tweets after his flight landed back in Los Angeles. “Am walking off a redeye from LAX,” he wrote. “3 reflections on @billmaher. 1. I’m a 1st Amendment absolutist. Comedians get latitude to cross hard lines. 2. But free speech comes with a responsibility to speak up when folks use that word. Me just cringing last night wasn’t good enough. 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 word?” The history of the N-word is an attack on universal human dignity. It’s therefore an attack on the American creed. Don’t use it.”

Representatives for Maher did not respond to Variety’s request for comment.

Maher has hosted “Real Time” since 2003, a year after ABC canceled his previous series, “Politically Incorrect.” That show, too, was known for its outspoken, controversial talk and humor. After 9/11, Maher referred to the U.S. response to terrorism in the Middle East as cowardly, a remark that triggered a backlash from the George W. Bush White House. Maher apologized, and said that he had not been referring to U.S. troops, but policy. The network cancelled the show the following June.

Maher has been particularly outspoken recently about political correctness on college campuses, and has chided protesters who have staged demonstrations when conservative figures have come to speak.

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  1. willie wont says:

    I hear African America people use it all the time. If it’s that sensitive let it go and let it die.

  2. Brenda Stuart says:

    The fact that people are calling for a mans job because he did what he was hired to do, be funny and controversial. Bill Maher is absolutely NOT prejudiced! And everyone knows it! Lenny Bruce was ahead of his time as the saying goes “Lenny Bruce died for our sins” A word only has the power you give it.

  3. Ah yes, the infamous liberal non-apology apology.

    It may be petty, but I am *LOVING* these leftie uck fups. It’s like Christmas came early this year.
    The completely oblivious nature of the typical liberal is equal parts mystifying and entertaining a/f, therefore, you know when liberal shenanigans are afoot, hilarity is bound to ensue.
    (Though, to be fair, I imagine it’s incredibly difficult to think clearly when your head’s rammed so far up your rear end.)

  4. CODY JONES says:

    Sasse – you didn’t! you are without courage. I’m sorry but you didn’t step up. Maher proved what I have believed all along about him – he is a light weight.

    As much as the DEMS like to call the REPs racist they seem to think they “own” a race. They take liberties that just are not cool. He is a small man. Very small man.

    And I am all for free speech. BUT i am also for Capitalism. Let him talk…then fire him! by Billly

  5. Dave J says:

    If Al Franken cancels his appearance on the Bill Mahr’s show then that is his loss since the “n” word is not the only offensive word said on his show and that the only ppl who wanted to boycott him are the ppl of the right who don’t watch his show at all and are incredibly racist in life.

  6. scottwil says:

    People have gotten too knee-jerk-absolutist about this stuff.

  7. Kevin says:

    I am a liberal Democrat who fights for tolerence and against injustice. I believes that the Black Lives Matter, GLBTQ equality, Feminist Marches and many more are powerful movements and greatly needed. In saying that, I do not think that everyone who utters a word that someone is offended by, makes them a racist or bigot. Bill Maher didn’t use the “N” word in malice. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t be offended. I’m just suggesting that before labeing someone as xenophobic, recognise who they are and how it was intended. Don’t let this word have so much power. We are all imprefect and make mistakes. Maher apologized, so lets move on and fight the real threat. The threat we have in the White House!

  8. Matthew L Sans says:


  9. cpaulg says:

    It’s just an example of a liberal betraying liberals’ roots as racists, and the original slaveholders, who did everything to block civil rights until they realized they needed black votes in the sixties. Learn the real history of the Democratic Party, and a disgusting outburst like Maher’s will not come as a surprise.

    • Someone With Class says:

      dems and repubs switched platforms in the thirties. this is common knowledge to everyone but low-information voters. the “history” of the party you reference is simply not relevant to today.

  10. Richard Eden says:

    Move on from this firing nonsense.

  11. Bill says:

    The use of the N word is totally unacceptable!

  12. Mike M says:

    I will never understand a country whose culture says its more OK to fire bullets at people than words.

  13. M Medina says:

    we don’t have freedom of speech only as long as it is politically acceptable!!!!!

    • Matthew L Sans says:


    • Senna101 says:

      That’s how it’s always been. Remember when people were killed for simply saying blacks should have the same rights as whites?

      Man, I guess things have gotten so much worse since then. What country do we live in that Maher doesn’t die, isn’t beaten, or placed in prison for making this joke?

      I mean. His rights have been seriously violated. He had to issue… apology!!!

  14. Utterly ridiculous that everyone’s got their panties in a bunch about this. Particularly as he was referring to himself!! People need to stop being such delicate little petals about such inconsequential nonsense. OOOH, I’m offended! No, I’M offended more! No, now you guys are offending me! Puh-leeze! Grow up. Bill Maher does not deserve to have his career destroyed over this.

    • cpaulg says:

      Actually he deserves to have his career destroyed because he’s untalented, unfunny, and now, to top it off, a closet racist!

  15. kathy shoemaker says:

    I am not a fan of Bill Maher but I have heard him say offensive and outrageous things on every show so why is this any different ? Of course he should not be fired this is getting way out of hand people really need to get a grip.

  16. love says:

    In an adjacent article, Pharaoh uses the N word, “I’m not a Yes N…”
    So, he can use the word. Ok.

    There are big issues in our world. Like or dislike another’s work and words,
    but all must be allowed to be idiots, racists, liars, whatever as long as it
    doesn’t break the law.

    We can avoid them. But let’s deal with larger issues than the use a word
    by a comedian.

    I have been offended often by others’ words, actions or inactions, but I would
    never tell another they have to live by my standards.

    What happened to freedom?

    • Senna101 says:

      Freedom is still there. Last I checked Maher wasn’t beaten, murdered or jailed for saying what he said.

      He exercised his right to speak freely. The public responded and disagreed with Maher.

      When you’re in the entertainment industry, you have to know your audience.

      These edgy-for-their-own-sake, shock value jokes are tired. People are tired of it and it’s not funny. Not when racism, sexism etc are causing real harm. It’s elitist and arrogant.

      • Tom Nelson says:

        You make a lot of common mistakes in your response to this matter but the most egregious is that ploy often utilized by the right when you say “the public responded and disagreed with Maher”. Which “public” would that be exactly? The one you want it to be? He’s a comedian who has a history that does not include racism in his repertoire. In FACT, he is exactly opposite what you suggest. From your words I conclude that you are either a racist yourself or too emotionally involved and uninformed to merit any serious consideration. As many have previously stated we are facing problems far too serious to let this be an energy burner.

    • John Thomas says:

      What happened to civility?

  17. Scarlett says:

    It was straight out of “Gone With the Wind” – a well-known quote. A tasteless reference, but doubt it was done with ill-intent.

    • Ryan D Clark says:

      I’m pretty sure he picked it up from the zillions of black people who have used similar phraseology containing the N-word, probably some while on his show. He didn’t use it as a slur against black people, he used it the way it would be used by a black person.

      Since it was obviously not used with malice, get over it. Seriously. I’m much more offended by Maher’s penchant for making fat jokes in virtually every episode. And unlike his use of the N-word here, these fat jokes are made in a manner that is blatantly derogatory towards people who are overweight. But I guess their feelings aren’t as important as those of black people.

      That being said, I think the N-word is the one word in the English language that needs to be retired permanently–by everyone, regardless of their color. Which is why I agree with Maher’s decision to apologize.

      But again, get over it people. Or, more appropriately, get over yourselves. Being professionally offended is not a good look.

      p.s. I’m a huge liberal, for what it’s worth.

    • Scarlett says:

      A vile book in my opinion – even when I read it in the early 70’s at a young age, I could tell it was not a fair representation.

    • John Thomas says:

      Sometimes, smashing the limits of “taste” is a serious transgression, regardless of intent. – A certain Trump comes to mind.

  18. John Thomas says:

    Valerie – Maher is either a hypocritical, corporate Democrat, or a fool that made a monstrous error in judgement in supporting them. — Take your pick.

  19. Valerie says:

    Do not touch Bill Maher; He is an man with integrity who fights for human justice.

    • Bill Maher fights for a big fat HBO paycheck and the opportunity to use his fame to scam on young women, like he did when the Playboy Mansion was still a thing. That you would slavishly worship such a pathetic little man with such a limited intellect makes me embarrassed for you.

  20. szlevi says:

    It was certainly a bad joke but it was *historical* reference, you fools… in case you never heard of it.

  21. John Thomas says:

    Maher may not be a racist, but, largely, the country still is. Maher doesn’t seem to realize the pain some words can cause in these very ugly times.

    I’d say much of Maher’s problem is he has no moral center. This was most obviously proved when he supported Clinton after she and the corrupt DNC stole the primary from Bernie Sanders – and the people. – This was a horrific path followed by most successful “entertainers,” – Stephen Colbert being the most notable example of this inexcusable treachery.

    It seems in almost every case, becoming rich makes people quickly forget the struggle of the poor and middle-class, and the stacked deck they are up against.

    • “Maher may not be a racist, but, largely, the country still is”

      Maybe you are jackass, but us non-progressives are not. If you want to see REAL racism, try traveling the world. The US is one of the most accepting countries in the world. Only an idiot could think otherwise.

    • Senna101 says:

      My thoughts exactly. Great comment.

  22. Taryn Thoman says:

    I’m a liberal minded woman from Massachusetts, and wasn’t offended in the least by Maher’s comment. He was using a historical reference. He’s an intelligent comedian and can’t be held to the same standards as politicians. African American slaves were usually trained for either field work or house work. Bill’s guest suggested he come work in the fields of Nebraska. I’m sure to a guy like Bill, field work would feel like slave work (I fell the same way about housework!)

    Slaves were commonly referred to as house or field “n****s”. I hear the word at least ten times a day on television and radio, and while I never use the word myself, I was not offended by its use in that context. The following excerpt from Chapter 25 of Margaret Mitchell’s legendary novel, “Gone With the Wind” demonstrates the reference as follows:

    “All right, go on. Any stock left?”
    “No’m. Nuthin’ ‘cept one ole sow an’ her litter. Ah driv dem inter de swamp de day de Yankees come, but de Lawd knows how we gwine git dem. She mean, dat sow.”
    “We’ll get them all right. You and Prissy can start right now hunting for her.”
    Pork was amazed and indignant.
    “Miss Scarlett, dat a fe’el han’s bizness. Ah’s allus been a house n****r.”
    A small fiend with a pair of hot tweezers plucked behind Scarlett’s eyeballs.
    You two will catch the sow — or get out of here, like the field hands did.”
    Tears trembled in Pork’s hurt eyes. Oh, if only Miss Ellen was here! She understood such niceties and realized the wide gap between the duties of a field hand and those of a house n****r.”

    I don’t think Bill Maher has anything to apologize for in this matter. He is only guilty of being smart, educated and funny, which is deeply offensive to the anti-intellectual movement destroying our country.


    • Do you think all that actually educated anyone? Everyone knows all that crap. The fact is that Maher committed some nonsense sin that is unforgivable among you idiot progressives and now he needs to pay with his career.

      Honestly, reading your drivel was just painful.

  23. Adam says:

    Ummm, am I the only one that can see obviously he was taking a stab at Nebraska when he was asked to “come work in the fields”. He is not a racist and if he had to do it over again, he wouldn’t have said it but African Americans trying to shut him down either don’t know him or should pay closer attention. What he said was not at all meant to be derogatory with all respect to understanding why it could hurt some people’s feelings.

    • Nope, he made a mistake and did something that should be just as career ending for him as it is for everyone else. I think this whole thing is hilarious. Few things are rewarding as watching vile progressives destroy each other over nothing.

  24. Bill B. says:

    What ridiculous idiocy. It’s one word! I hear blacks using it all the time. I’s in many song lyrics. Get real people. We have a president who has said so much worse than this. The double standards and the absurd political correctness (that I didn’t know we had anymore) is ridiculous.

  25. Atilla Thehun says:

    Anyone who’s seen The Vagina Monologues understands that words can be defused. Regardless, while I can’t stand Maher (misinformed and just plain nasty), he had every right to say what he did. From there, each individual has the choice of agreeing or not.

  26. mjweir0317 says:

    STOP THE PRESSES! Bill Maher was obnoxious and tasteless!

    I’m shocked. Who knew? This is unprecedented in the annals of tee vee. No one could have EVER foreseen Bill Maher saying something so odious.

    Get a freakin’ grip. Bill Maher was using a horrible derogatory term to describe himself. To the black people reacting to this, Bill Maher is probably one of the best high-profile supporters you have. He’s a huge friend to Barack Obama and he’s never been a racist. Did you even listen to what he said?

    I just watched the Academy Award winning best picture and this word was used dozens of times. If you hate it, don’t say it. You don’t get a pass because you’re black.

    grow up. Move on. He’s a commedian. And he’s a particularly abrasive one at that.

  27. Bill Maher is the Least prejudiced person out there! If you want to attack someone
    Attack that jerk and his peeps in the White House!
    I pay like everyone who watches HBO and I can’t even see it because of these insinuations against Bill Maher!
    Grow up whoever got offended!!!

  28. Sharon Smith says:

    JayZ went on a mission saying he wanted the word used because by doing so took the power out of the word. He should be the first one defending Maher’s right to use it. Blacks are such hypocrites they accept rappers use of word to earn blood money when they knew it was the worst thing to be called on earth and other blacks accepted it. They proudly boasted that some of their biggest fans were white males. Can’t have it both ways. Either everyone can use it or no one. Sadly black male rapper lets the cat out the bag and the cat can’t be put back in. So those offended shut up and live with it.

  29. Mitchem says:

    Douches = Alec Baldwin, Kathy Griffin, Bill Maher.

  30. Cecil B da Mill says:

    Bill Maher, has it right about Islam. ‘The more you know about Islam the more you will be terrified” So I wouldn’t be surprised if Islam elements go after him hard.

  31. Cecil B da Mill says:

    Way to much emotion assigned to this word and it gives people brain damage when it is heard, yet “White men can’t jump” will play non ending on cable TV and whites accused of supremacy at the drop of a hat, while Muslim supremacy is thrown in our faces every day. Maybe it’s time to roll back the clock to Archie Bunker days when everyone laughed at each other and not be so sensitive. Wishful thinking, people have to much hate invested to laugh at anything.

  32. jer says:

    Bill Maher is a nasty hate-filled liberal Jew; he’s said worse.

  33. Mitchem says:

    Hey, how about some holocaust jokes and being a house nazi? Let’s see how that goes over. And can we EVER get enough sodomite jokes? Oh yeah, Tracy Morgan had to go to gay camp for a joke that didn’t even include the “F” word, so, oh well.

  34. Quaker says:

    HBO “Maher is cheap, so he can say any jackhole thing. But we’ll edit out his last asinine statement so things can get back to normal.”

  35. JJ says:

    Double standards, double standards. It’s a cable show and people who are complaining should get a hobby. The coments or hashtag should “get fire “are ridiculous. Here’s a thought if you don’t like what you hear change the freaking channel after all if you are seeing his show you probably have hundred of channels i challenged you to change the freaking channel. have a get hobby day ;)

  36. Kaboom! says:

    But isn’t it ok when Bill Maher uses the “n” word? After all he gave $1 million to the Obama campaign. Will the end result be Bill standing in the unemployment line with Kathy Griffin. Or will the hypocrisy of liberals be victorious again?

  37. Alice says:

    You can’t be upset with Bill Maher using the n***a word and still think it is acceptable to turn on the radio and hear that same word all day long. People are such hypocrites when it comes to the n word. And no, it doesn’t make a difference whether a black person or a white person is using it because it insults black people regardless of who says it.

  38. Enrique says:

    Why don’t people get worked about JayZ? The guy used the N word all the time, people spend big money on him, and he even good on Bill Maher.

    The double standards here is staggering

  39. loco73 says:

    Wow, the world has ended and we must all atone for our sins…because wouldn’t you know it, Bill Maher is responsible for the apocalypse…Again…priorities, people want someone to fight and something to fight for…there are better targets and more valuable causes…

  40. eddie willers says:

    So glad they never used the word in “The Wire”.

  41. Quaker says:

    I’ve found the TV industry to be incredibly inclusive…unless you’re black of course. Then, even slave jokes and the “N” word are considered harmless and humorous.

  42. Mike says:

    Ah common people. You know TV and Hollywood never does anything to people who say or do anything negative toward black people. They only come down on people for doing, saying or thinking anything against Jews and homosexuals. Just ask Ellen.

  43. Jay says:

    Ever think that maybe he did it out of admiration? Most white folk have respect for blacks and are just looking for ways to include them in the discussion. Many blacks still use this term amongst themselves while attempting to espouse attitude and character. Maher a racists? Come on people, you have to stop playing the victim card at every turn and learn how to think. For a reactionary moment Maher embodied blackness which has attitude and character and said what he said cause he he felt that. It was an innocent gesture of character improvisation of those traits.

  44. Joe LeRee says:

    Rock n Roll Hall of Fame inductions, an HBO official production Snoop used it, it was used half a dozen times in the performances. As a derogatory word, socially we pretty much all agree N***er doesn’t have a place in the modern vernacular. Culturally, n***a, its a different story and everybody knows it. Its a what’s up, its a hell no, its a you’re so crazy, its an affirmation as in you’re mine and I’m yours. It meant nothing. Look at the shit we are in and this is what appals people?

  45. Ben says:

    People…Bill made a joke. Nothing more. That’s his job.

  46. Lucy says:

    I noticed the homosexual community never comes out in defense on any other wronged groups, especially African Americans. Shameful.

  47. JJJohnson says:

    HBO, “We’ll edit out what Maher said….so keep watching folks!”

  48. Matthew says:

    And as expected, HBO gives Maher a slap on the wrist and nothing more.

    • Ryan D Clark says:

      He shouldn’t even get a slap on the wrist.

      He also shouldn’t have used that word and probably never will again (publicly). Nobody should use it, regardless of their color. It’s time to quit playing this “I can, but you can’t” game and retire this divisive, stupid word.

      But seriously, get over it people. Maher is not a racist. This is only upsetting if you’re determined to make yourself.

  49. CJB says:

    Perhaps it’s time to revisit Lenny Bruce.

  50. David says:

    I just can’t be offened when the word comes out of black folks mouth daily. When I heard loud “music” blasting out of the car next to me at the light with the word being uttered 5 times loud and clear… give me a break when it comes to black people’s indignation, PLEASE!!! Take it in context, if it wasn’t uttered in a malicious manner, get over it and move on.

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