Bill Maher Prevented From Discussing Religion on CBS’s ‘freeSpeech’

Is CBS’s new “freeSpeech” segment on the “Evening News” really free? Maybe not, as TVNewser reported Saturday (hat tip to Drudge) that Bill Maher – who had been invited on to be one of the free speakers – was told that he couldn’t discuss religion:

“On Friday's Real Time on HBO, Maher explained that CBS approached him to do a 'freeSpeech' segment on the new Evening News. He asked if he could talk about religion but was rejected and told that he would be provided with a list of 'approved' topics," an e-mailer says.

The actual transcript of what Maher said Friday night concerning this issue is as follows:

Now, I have to say. I want to say something about what’s going on on that CBS “Evening News” broadcast, because, uh, full disclosure, they asked me to do one of their, they have, a special feature which they call “freeSpeech”. Uh, which I thought, “Great. Free speech.” I thought it was a little condescending to be like, “Well, we’re giving you free speech. Let the other 500 channels have egg on their face – we’re providing free speech to America.”

But, I was very flattered, because, I tell you, CBS News – that’s Edward R. Murrow, and Cronkite, Mike Wallace…I have them on a pedestal. But, it’s anything but free speech, and this is why I’m bringing it up. I’m not trying to rag on them, but, I mean, if CBS News doesn’t understand what free speech is, what am I supposed to expect of Fox News.

(Some side chatter occurred, with guest Gloria Steinem asking what happened to him.) Well, I asked if I could talk about religion, and that was a deal-breaker right from the beginning. (More side chatter, with Steinem saying “Well, that’s ridiculous.”) That’s my point. They said, “We’ll send over a list of acceptable topics…for our segment on free speech.”

And, Katie said, she introduced this on her first broadcast by saying, “Expressing your opinion is one of the privileges of living in this country.” Well, sorry again, but I thought it was a right, and not a privilege. I thought…and, again…I only bring this up because they’re treating it as a privilege. And, if CBS News doesn’t get the difference between a privilege and a right, we’re in a lot of trouble in this country.

Actually, it is Maher that doesn’t understand the difference between a right and a privilege. After all, it is not a right to go on television and say what ever you want. That is a privilege that any network affords to those it invites on. And, if that network doesn’t want people discussing things that might be offensive to its viewers, it is the right of that network to make that decision…even in a segment entitled “freeSpeech.”

In reality, given Maher’s clear anti-theistic views, is he someone that a major television network wants discussing religion on an evening news broadcast? Just two weeks ago, NewsBusters reported that Maher had gone on quite a rant against Christianity during his September 1 “Real Time” program on HBO when he suggested that Americans are “Christians in name only.” And, on the March 31 installment reported here, the comedian suggested that Christians are “part of a dress-up cult that hates sex and worships magic”? Is that the kind of “free speech” that a major broadcast network wants to air during its news hour?

Maher also suggested that Christian Americans should convert to Islam: “If converting to Islam is all it takes to get the terrorists off our backs, then all I have to say is, ‘Lalalalalalala!’”

In the end, maybe CBS made a good decision exercising its right to not give Maher the privilege of offending large numbers of Americans on the “Evening News.”

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.