Democratic senator Al Franken of Minnesota won’t be appearing on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” following the controversy created by the host’s use of the N-word during an interview with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb) on the show Friday evening.
A statement released by the senator’s staff and published on HuffPost reads, “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.’” The statement continues, “He was glad to see Bill, who the Senator considers to be a good friend, apologize and express sincere regret for his comment.”
Maher’s apology, released the day after his interview with Sasse read, "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. It continued, "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."
Franken, in the midst of promoting his latest book “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate” was scheduled to appear on Maher’s show this Friday. At this time, Maher has no comment on Franken’s cancellation.
Franken and Maher have had a longstanding personal and professional relationship that includes not only regular appearances by the senator on the comedian’s current show, but a running bit on his earlier program “Politically Incorrect” which ran on Comedy Central and ABC from 1993 to 2002. In the series of sketches, “Strange Bedfellows,” the future progressive senator debated topics of the day with the then-conservative (and future liberal media giant) Arianna Huffington.
“Politically Incorrect” was cancelled in 2002 following remarks by Maher some construed as praise for the 9/11 hijackers.
A spokesman for HBO said Friday that, “Bill Maher’s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless.” The spokesman went on to say that the network would be “removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.” That said, the same spokesman later affirmed that there were no plans to cancel the series as of yet, despite repeated calls for it on social media and elsewhere.
Franken was put in a very similar position last week, when the tide of criticism directed at Kathy Griffin — who had posed for a series of images while holding a bloodied Donald Trump mask released last Tuesday — took aim at him due to a scheduled appearance with the comedian.
In response, Franken released a statement that read, "After hearing from many Minnesotans who were rightfully offended, I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be best for her not to participate in the event we had previously scheduled."
Over the course of last week, CNN removed Griffin from her annual New Year's Eve hosting duties, multiple venues cancelled her bookings and Squatty Potty fired her as a spokesperson.
As of this time, it appears that both Friday’s "Real Time" show, the first since Maher’s most recent controversy, and his recent tour will go on as scheduled.