Four Questions for Bill Maher
JAKE TAPPER: Bill, thanks for doing this. I just wanted to make sure that as I cover this debate about appropriate language and such, I'm not excluding any points you think should be made.
BILL MAHER: I don't really know all the "points," but as I said on my show last Friday, I'm a pottymouth, not a misogynist.
TAPPER: So with all the criticism of Rush Limbaugh for his comments about the Georgetown Law student, conservatives claim that there's a double standard, with President Obama, Democrats and the media far more tolerant of offensive language when wielded by liberal or progressive media figures against conservative women. Is that a fair comparison? You have certainly used offensive words to describe some politicians you don't like.
MAHER: I'm a comedian - not just a guy who says he is, like Rush, but someone who - well, you saw me do stand-up last year in D.C. There's a big difference between just saying you're a comedian and going out and getting thousands of people to laugh hard for 90 minutes. And the one I'm compared to most is Carlin, who also had these kind of problems. Edgy is my brand - everyone wants that, but they say, "but never go over the line." It's like telling Tom Brady, 'Throw into coverage 40 times a game every game but never throw an interception.'"
TAPPER: How do you know when you've gone too far?
MAHER: I let the audience be the guide. The bit I did about Palin using the word c-, one of the biggest laughs in my act, I did it all over the country, not one person ever registered disapproval, and believe me, audiences are not afraid to let you know. Because it was a routine where that word came in at just the right moment. Context is very important, and it's also important to remember that stand-up comedy is the final frontier of free speech. Still, I stopped doing that routine, but I would like someone to replace that word if it's so awful with another one that has the same meaning for a person - not just women, it's a word you can and lots do (all the British, for example) use for both sexes. It has a very specific meaning.
TAPPER: And that's not comparable to what Limbaugh said about Sandra Fluke?
MAHER: To compare that to Rush is ridiculous - he went after a civilian about very specific behavior, that was a lie, speaking for a party that has systematically gone after women's rights all year, on the public airwaves. I used a rude word about a public figure who gives as good as she gets, who's called people "terrorist" and "unAmerican." Sarah Barracuda. The First Amendment was specifically designed for citizens to insult politicians. Libel laws were written to protect law students speaking out on political issues from getting called whores by Oxycontin addicts.
TAPPER: What about all the clips of you saying rather "edgy" things - offensive to many people, no doubt - from your show on HBO, "Real Time"?
MAHER: Of course if you take out of context over 10 years snippets inside comedy bits you can make anyone look bad - and sometimes, I have been! Not perfect, but not misogyny. In general, this is an obvious right wing attempt to dredge up some old shit about me to deflect from their self-inflicted problems. They are the kings of false equivalencies.
And through it all, I have defended Rush's right to stay on the air! Not what he said, that was disgusting - but the right to not disappear because people who don't even listen to you don't like what you said. That really bothers me. I never hear Rush Limbaugh unless a guy in the next truck at a stop light has it on; it would be arrogant for me to say "he has to disappear" and deprive the people who do listen to him of what they like. We all have different tastes and different opinions, that's America.