"People make mistakes and we're all sinners": Bill Maher didn't offer the best apology for racial slur

Maher offered what sounded like a sincere apology but the late-night host did try to downplay his use of the n-word

Taylor Link
June 10, 2017 1:18PM (UTC)

"Real Time" host Bill Maher is not one to show remorse for the things he's said in the past. But on Friday, the political satirists found himself apologizing to the black community for his regrettable use of the n-word.

Maher knew a simple apology would not be enough, so he invited Georgetown sociology professor Michael Eric Dyson on to the show to education him on white privilege.


"I wanted you to come by here because . . . I wanted you to school me," Maher told Dyson. "I did a bad thing."

"That's a great place to start, Bill," Dyson agreed.

The late-night comedian then gave what sounded like a well-rehearsed apology for last week's show:

For black folks, that word, I don't care who you are, has caused pain. I am not here to do that. Now, the guy who was here, it's not his fault, I feel bad for him, the senator, it's all on me. But he said a weird thing. The comic mind goes to a weird place sometimes. But it doesn't matter that it wasn't said in malice. If it brought back pain for people, then that's why I apologize freely and I reiterate it tonight.

Maher's audience greeted his apology with a loud applause. The comedian gestured to the crowd, thanking them for their support.

"You are used to those cheers," Dyson quipped.

Trying to explain the modern-day usage of the n-word, the sociology professor appropriately read a text from his son, who has clearly thought a lot about the issue.


"I know white boys [who use the n-word] who earn a pass from the work they put in," the text from Dyson's son read. "But the coolest and most honorable white boys are the ones that choose not to act on that pass because they understand the history, pain and insensitivity behind the use of the n-word."

Dyson then challenged Maher to acknowledge his white privilege:


"Do you truly understand the need to name and to challenge that unconscious white privilege that exists and how it hurts black people, even intentionally?"

Maher's response was somewhat defensive.

"Yeah, of course, I think I do," Maher answered. "I mean we're all evolving. We're all who we are."


"By the way, this happened once," Maher added, which, by the way, is not true. "A guy said a weird thing, I made a bad joke. Yes, it was wrong. And I own up to that. It's not like I made a career out of this . . . You know, it happened, and it was wrong. People make mistakes and we're all sinners."

Watch the rest of Maher's interview at the top of the post.

Taylor Link

Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Bill Maher Comedy Late Night Late-night Racism Real Time With Bill Maher

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