Bill Maher sparked outrage on social media after saying the N-word during an interview with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse on Real Time With Bill Maher on Friday, June 2.
During a conversation about maturity, the two were discussing how adults in California still dress up to celebrate Halloween. Sasse, 45, said that wasn’t the case in Nebraska and invited Maher, 61, to “come work in the fields with us.”
The comedian responded, “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house n—er.”
Sasse briefly chuckled but appeared to be taken aback by Maher’s language, while the audience had audibly mixed reactions. Maher, for his part, quickly added, “No, it’s a joke.”
— deray mckesson (@deray) June 3, 2017
The New York Times reported that the epithet was not censored when Friday night’s episode of the HBO talk show was rebroadcast at midnight.
Social media users were quick to criticize Maher’s controversial comment. One Twitter user wrote, “But really, @BillMaher has got to go. There are no explanations that make this acceptable.” Another viewer referenced the backlash surrounding comedian Kathy Griffin‘s recent anti-Donald Trump photo shoot, writing, “Ain’t that sad? Bill Maher saw Kathy Griffin getting heat and got jealous. ‘You know what tops a beheading? Call yourself a n—er!’ Loser.”
Maher issued an apology on Saturday, telling Variety in a statement, “Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I’m up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn’t have said on my live show. Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry.”
Sasse, meanwhile, tweeted on Saturday morning, “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.”
In a statement released to ABC News, HBO called Maher’s comment “completely inexcusable and tasteless” and vowed to remove his “deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.”