Bill Maher Pleads: 'I Don't Want to Do Anything' to Hurt Obama's Re-election

In a cover story for The Hollywood Reporter, Bill Maher claimed he’s not giving out any more million-dollar checks like the one he gave Obama’s super PAC.  "I don't want to do anything that would hurt his re-election chances…and it could because I'm the most 'out there' host. You can go on any other show, and they wouldn't hold it against you because those people don't say the things that I say.” But he also boasts "I am so much more edgy" than the other late-night comedians.

If he didn’t want to hurt Obama, why send the check? He announced it a week after the liberal media made Santorum super-PAC donor Foster Friess a controversial figure for an aspirin joke. The obvious answer is at least half-selfish: It makes him a bigger fish in the media/political mix, giving him a publicity boost (including a cover story in The Hollywood Reporter). 

THR’s Lacey Rose and Matthew Belloni ooze over their subject and his newfound power:

In the process, the bomb-throwing provocateur -- a devout atheist who wants to legalize most recreational drugs and famously was kicked off ABC for saying the 9/11 terrorists weren't cowards -- has crossed the line from pay cable commentator to mainstream activist.

Unlike late-night peers Jon Stewart, with his Rally to Restore Sanity, or Stephen Colbert, who launched a satirically eponymous super PAC, Maher is publicly putting his own money where his big mouth is. And in doing so, he is setting himself up as an increasingly powerful voice as the presidential campaign heads into its defining months.

This line is very (unintentionally) funny: “Maher says he still considers himself a moderate but believes the Republican Party has shifted to exclude nonextremists, making Obama the crucial best option.” Maher even claims to have "off-limits" topics and monior "legitimate conservative arguments" before writing:

Perhaps surprisingly, he deems plenty of topics off-limits. Jokes about children of political candidates, cruelty to animals and homosexuals who aren't out publicly are verboten among Real Time's tight-knit nine-person writing team, most of whom have been with Maher for years. "The writers room is like the most hilarious think tank in Washington," says Carter. "We tend to be very liberal, but we also put a great deal of stock in monitoring legitimate conservative arguments against knee-jerk liberals."

He also won't apologize for his most infamous quote.

He says he won't tell a joke or offer an opinion unless he believes the premise to be absolutely true. More than a decade after his infamous 9/11 statement -- "We have been the cowards" -- he won't back down. "I said I was sorry that I offended people at a sensitive time," he notes, "but I never said I was wrong because I wasn't wrong."

Maher prides himself on being the aggressive line-crosser:

Although Stewart is the wiseguy watchdog and Colbert the smarty-pants rabble rouser, Maher stands out as the increasingly aggressive line-crosser, a position enabled by both a personality that loves to shock and nearly zero restrictions thanks to his decadelong perch on HBO.

He's also willing to directly challenge guests and push the taste envelope further than his rivals. "I am so much more edgy," he boasts. Only Maher would ask a conservative guest why Limbaugh hadn't "croaked" instead of Heath Ledger from prescription drug abuse. And only Maher would lead a discussion in which gay columnist Dan Savage said, "I sometimes think about f--ing the shit out of Rick Santorum." ("Pretty sick stuff," according to Fox News' Sean Hannity.)

He often uses his show-ending editorial -- a segment he meticulously hones over several days -- to lambast such frequent Republican targets as Santorum and Newt Gingrich, who this election cycle have stepped in for Palin as Maher's favorite foils. "I mean, she was great, but it's like Spartacus," he jokes. " 'I'm an idiot!' 'I'm an idiot!' They're all idiots!"

Naturally, his HBO bosses adore him and pay him "high-seven figures" for 35 shows a year:

Indeed, Maher's 10-year relationship with HBO has been the longest of his career. His most recent two-year deal, signed in 2010, pays him in the high-seven figures for 35 shows a year. Sources say he's already in talks with the network to extend the pact, this time for longer than two years. And despite the mountains of hate mail the network receives (religion and Palin are frequent topics), HBO is happy with its sharp-tongued host. "He knows how fast to drive the car, and I've actually never seen him lose control of the conversation or the direction that he wants it to go," says HBO co-president Richard Plepler. Adds programming chief Michael Lombardo, continuing the metaphor, "He's always in control of his car, and he's not someone who goes to the edge just to go to the edge."

Maher tells THR he earns an additional "high seven figures" from his stand-up comedy dates, so perhaps the million-dollar check to Obama doesn't hurt as much as he claims.

PS: There's also trickles of goo like this:

"To move forward after every big event in my life, I have to check in with Bill," says Arianna Huffington, a longtime friend and former correspondent for Maher's previous show Politically Incorrect. "Some people have therapy, I have Bill. He's much funnier, and there's no co-pay."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis