NEW YORK, June 3 Television talk-show host and
comedian Bill Maher drew harsh criticism on Saturday for using a
racial epithet on his HBO series "Real Time" in an interview
with a U.S. senator from Nebraska.
Maher was interviewing Ben Sasse, a Republican, late on
Friday when he used the slur in reference to himself, quickly
drawing a backlash. The show is aired live.
"Bill Maher decided to get on television last night and
sanitize and normalize the n-word," civil-rights activist
Reverend Al Sharpton said in his Saturday sermon in New York.
"Just because Bill Maher is liberal and our friend, you don’t
give him a pass ... you never get the right to use that term."
Sharpton called for a meeting with HBO leaders to request a
"correction" on the "Real Time" episode, broadcast from Los
Angeles, and to hold Maher accountable.
Maher used the offensive word after Sasse invited him to
visit Nebraska and work in the fields. Maher made a distinction
between slaves that toiled in fields and slaves that were
allowed to work indoors, using the slur to refer to himself as
Prominent Muslim-Americans chimed in on the controversy,
saying Maher had repeatedly made Islamophobic remarks over the
years that had been overlooked by many of his liberal viewers.
"I can't believe Bill Maher said something racist, said no
Muslim ever," religion scholar Reza Aslan wrote on Twitter.
Maher has not publicly addressed the reaction to his remark.
Representatives of HBO, a unit of Time Warner Inc, could
not immediately be reached for comment.
Sasse, however, made a series of Twitter posts about the
interview early on Saturday.
"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?'" Sasse wrote. "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."
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Scott Malone and