In the video posted last week to Real Time‘s YouTube page, Maher jokes about the hoopla surrounding the boy band singer’s sudden departure from One Direction. Malik announced that he was leaving the beloved group last month — and giving up his share of the $75 million earned by the band. A source told Us Weekly of Malik’s departure: “He couldn’t deal with the stress of saving his relationship [to Perrie Edwards] and being on the road.”
Like the rest of the Internet, Maher expressed outrage over the shocking announcement. “Zayn Malik can go ahead and quit One Direction for all I care,” the show host told his laughing audience. “I mean, whatever. But I think after everything we’ve been through, I at least deserve the common respect of being told face-to-face.”
Unfortunately, he didn’t stop there. “Just tell me two things, Zayn: Which one in the band were you?” Mahar continued. “And where were you during the Boston Marathon?”
As Maher delivered his joke, photos of Malik and Tsarnaev were flashed across the screen side by side, both young men (who were raised as Muslim) sporting mustaches and sideswept locks. Tsarnaev is currently on trial for allegedly killing three people and injuring more than 260 others in April 2013. He faces a total of 30 counts for the Boston Marathon bombing attacks.
Outraged commenters wrote that the joke was reprehensible, describing it as “sick,” “racist,” and “disgusting.” A fan in the United Kingdom also set up a petition on Change.org, calling for the politico to apologize.
“This is not about making Bill Maher a scapegoat and before you disregard this thinking 1D fans are angry because of Zayn Malik, think again,” the petition written by SJ Temi read. “This is about how islamophobia, racism and discrimination of ANY kind is wrong, shouldn’t be ignored and must end… This is completely unacceptable. Racism should not become normalized especially on NATIONAL TELEVISION. Bill Maher and whoever wrote the script, need to be severely disciplined and at least apologize to show that this type of behavior is NEVER ok.”
The fan concluded: “Millions watch his TV show meaning he has an influence on many people, the fact that people in the audience laughed is proof of his negative influence.”
pulling myself together to do my show tonight after news of Zayn Malik quitting 1 Direction. Next stage in his career? Rejoining 1 Direction
— Bill Maher (@billmaher) March 27, 2015
While Maher has yet to respond to petition, he does have a history of riling up controversy. In fact, Maher told Us Weekly in his 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me this past January: “Someone once called me a male chauvinist lamb and I was okay with it.”
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