Bill Maher is in some very hot water for using the n-word in an offhanded joke during an interview with Senator Ben Sasse on Real Time. In response to the controversy, Al Franken rescinded his commitment to be a guest on the first show to air after the scandal broke. Michael Eric Dyson, public intellectual and professor at Georgetown University, has offered to replace him.
Dyson is one of the foremost black intellectuals in the country, and defended Maher on Twitter, saying that “Bill’s been a champion of many fights for black justice.” He has not, however, exonerated Maher of guilt in his use of the word.
In a long tweet, Dyson wrote:
“I’m emotional about this. I love Bill Maher. He’s a very dear friend. But as I’ve made plain through the years, the n word should be reserved for black use. Period. Having said that, as he shows on Real Time nearly every week, Bill’s been a champion of many fights for black justice. He has bravely, and relentlessly, pilloried racism, white privilege, and white indifference to the black plight. Plus, he has, from the start, featured brilliant black personalities on his shows, whether on network TV or now cable. In short, he has used his platform to highlight black faces, and amplify black voices, that might never have otherwise been given such a prominent perch to tell their truths. Given the Bill Maher I know, he will use this opportunity to strengthen his role as an ally to black people.”
So far, Franken appears to be the only scheduled guest to back out of the show. Former Representative David Jolly has confirmed that he will still be attending, writing, “Politics is the arena where hard issues are confronted, and as [Teddy Roosevelt] said, faces get a little dusty. We need more politicians with the courage to get in the arena, instead of sitting out tough debates in the name of self-preservation.”
Other guests will include Bernie Sanders’ former national press secretary Symone Sanders, journalist David Gregory and rapper Ice Cube.
A spokesperson for Franken said of the senator’s decision to leave the show, “Senator Franken believes that what Bill Maher said was inappropriate and offensive, which is why he made the decision not to appear on the next episode of ‘Real Time.’ He was glad to see Bill, who the Senator considers to be a good friend, apologize and express sincere regret for his comment.”
HBO has denied any intentions of cancelling the show or firing Maher.