In 2002, ABC decided not to renew Bill Maher's contract apparently due to some disgraceful comments he made on his program "Politically Incorrect" following the 9/11 attacks. After what transpired on "Real Time" Friday, the heads of HBO should be equally outraged, if not more.
As the discussion moved to the attempted assassination of Vice President Cheney last week, Maher asked his panel why it was necessary for the Huffington Post to remove comments by readers concerning their disappointment that the attempt failed. As the conversation ensued, Maher said one of the most disgraceful and irresponsible things uttered on a major television program since Bush was elected.
In a nutshell, the host said the world would be a safer place if the assassination attempt succeeded. And, he even had the nerve to reiterate it. Here’s the deplorable sequence of events for those that have the stomach for it (video available here courtesy of our friend Ms Underestimated):
Maher: What about the people who got onto the Huffington Post – and these weren’t even the bloggers, these were just the comments section – who said they, they expressed regret that the attack on Dick Cheney failed.
Joe Scarborough: Right.
John Ridley: More than regret.
Maher: Well, what did they say?
Ridley: They said “We wish he would die.” I mean, it was (?) hate language.
Barney Frank: They said the bomb was wasted. (laughter and applause)
Maher: That’s a funny joke. But, seriously, if this isn’t China, shouldn’t you be able to say that? Why did Arianna Huffington, my girlfriend, I love her, but why did she take that off right away?
After some discussion about why Huffington should or shouldn’t have taken these comments down, the following occurred:
Ridley: It’s one thing to say you hate Dick Cheney, which applies to his politics. It’s another thing to say, “I’m sorry he didn’t die in an explosion." And I think, you know…
Maher: But you should be able to say it. And by the way...
Frank: Excuse me, Bill, but can I ask you a question? Do you decide what the topics are for this show?
Maher: Yeah, I decide the topics, they don’t go there.
Frank: But you exercise control over the show the way that she does over her blog.
Maher: But I have zero doubt that if Dick Cheney was not in power, people wouldn’t be dying needlessly tomorrow. (applause)
Scarborough: If someone on this panel said that they wished that Dick Cheney had been blown up, and you didn’t say…
Frank: I think he did.
Scarborough: Okay. Did you say…
Maher: No, no. I quoted that.
Frank: You don’t believe that?
Maher: I’m just saying if he did die, other people, more people would live. That’s a fact.
Wake up, HBO: one of your hosts said the world would be a safer place if the Vice President of the United States of America had been assassinated.
*****Update: Upon further examination, it seems that Maher's comments last night were signficantly more serious and virulent than what got him fired from ABC in 2002.
To refresh everyone's memory, on Monday, September 17, 2001, Maher and his "Politically Incorrect" panel were discussing the attacks. Dinesh D'Souza was one of the guests, and according to both a UPI article from September 19, and a September 20 transcript from the "O'Reilly Factor," D'Souza was making the case that the hijackers weren't cowards.
From UPI (no link available):
"Look at what they did," he said. "First of all, you have a whole bunch of guys who are willing to give their life. None of (them) backed out. All of them slammed themselves into pieces of concrete ... These are warriors."
Maher, according to a transcript of the show, responded by saying, "We (the United States) have been cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly."
Maher appeared on the "O'Reilly Factor" the day after this UPI article was published, and defended his statements as follows:
MAHER: I used the word we, we have been. That was a mistake because it's vague, and I apologize, as I do, to the military if they took it the wrong way. But I've been a huge military defender on this show, that is one of the things you and I would agree on, Bill, and maybe have when you were here.
What I was talking about was the policy making body of this country, which has not responded and had not responded before this, to terrorism the way they should. I was saying basically that they blew up our embassies in Africa. That was not a small thing. And embassies -- I know it's way over in Africa, that is American soil. And 100 people...
O'REILLY: So you're basically laying this at the doorstep of your guy, Bill Clinton. Is that we, his administration?
MAHER: OK, but you know what, as a society now we're coming together and we're all lobbying in the same way toward the president.
So when that happened I didn't hear a big out cry from Congress when Clinton did that. The country was satisfied to handle the problem that way. The country did not want to tackle terrorism then. And that's what we did, we lobbed a cruise missile at a pharmaceutical factory. Same thing when we tried to get bin Laden the last time.
MAHER: I think they're [the hijackers] moral cowards. But physical cowards, cowards in war, cowards in the sense of a soldier who falls on a grenade, no. And I think we make a mistake when we underestimate our enemy. I think that is a big mistake in this country to assume that these people are stupid and cowardly, because we are up against it now.
With that in mind, it seems safe to say that making reference to an attempted assassination of a sitting Vice President in the way Maher did Friday night -- actually voicing regret that the attempt failed, and stating unequivocally it would have been better if the plan had succeeded -- is far worse than what Maher stated on "PI" five and a half years ago, and should be dealt with just as seriously by the heads of HBO.
*****Update II: As of 1:30 PM EST, there are 504 articles at Google News concerning Ann Coulter's comments yesterday at CPAC about John Edwards. Regardless of your opinion of those comments, how can they be close to as offensive as someone voicing regrets over a failed assassination attempt on a sitting Vice President?
*****Update III: NewsBusters member and blogger Jon Quixote has all the information concerning the kerfuffle at Huffington Post that Maher and the gang were discussing here.