Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has pulled out of a scheduled appearance on HBO’s Real Time amid controversy over host Bill Maher’s use of a racial slur on last week’s show.
In a statement to The Huffington Post, a spokesperson for the senator said Maher’s “offensive” comments led to Franken’s decision.
“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 spokesperson said. “He was glad to see Bill, who the Senator considers to be a good friend, apologize and express sincere regret for his comment.”
During a conversation with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Maher referred to himself as a “house ni**er.” Maher’s remark prompted intense backlash on social media and calls for his firing by some left-wing activists, including Black Lives Matter leader DeRay McKesson and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
— deray mckesson (@deray) June 3, 2017
HBO issued a statement Saturday saying Maher’s remarks would be edited out of future broadcasts of the show.
“Bill Maher’s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless. We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show,” HBO said.
Maher apologized in a statement Saturday, saying “The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry.”
Franken’s decision to pull out of Real Time comes just days after he disinvited Kathy Griffin from an upcoming book event after a photograph depicting the comedian holding up a fake, bloodied decapitated head meant to resemble President Donald Trump went viral online and became the subject of a United States Secret Service investigation.
Franken, in an appearance last week on CNN, had originally said that he would still appear with Griffin at the book event, calling her “a friend” and “a terrific comedian.”
Symone Sanders, an activist and former national press secretary for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, says she is “still planning on doing the show Friday.”
“I thought Maher’s comment, Ben Sasse’s reaction and the crowd’s applause were all equally distasteful, inappropriate and offensive,” Sanders told The Huffington Post. “I am glad Maher too recognized as such and issued an apology.”
“I look forward to a dialogue about it and other pressing issues of the week on Friday,” Sanders said, adding “The n-word is not a joke to be thrown about and it is never OK to make light of slavery and/or the experiences of enslaved people.”
Rapper Ice Cube, former Florida congressman David Jolly, and journalist David Gregory are also scheduled to appear on the HBO show Friday.
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