Bill Maher Apologizes For Claiming CBS Denied Him ‘Free Speech’

September 19th, 2006 10:25 AM

Well sports fans, the plot is getting so thick you can drive a truck over it. TV Newser is reporting that Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time” who went on quite a rant Friday night about being denied his free speech rights by CBS, might be mistaken. According to the New York Daily News (emphasis mine): “‘If I or my representatives got it wrong about how the 'Free Speech' segment of the 'CBS Evening News' is, sorry, our bad,’ Maher said yesterday in a statement. ‘I'm ready, willing and able to speak about the topic I originally suggested.’"

Isn’t that special? In fact, according to Vaughn Ververs at CBS’s “The Public Eye,” the “Evening News” is in no way opposed to addressing religion:

In fact, tonight’s “freeSpeech” segment deals with that very topic, featuring a Muslim author speaking on the uproar in response to the Pope’s recent comments. In an e-mail, Hartman also said that Maher was not told the topic of religion was off limits, that all prospective “freeSpeech” participants are given “suggested topics” in order to yield timely commentary and avoid repetition. Hartman added, “no effort was made to dictate content to him or anyone else, other than that we have told everyone that we won't air personal attacks, and that we're seeking an overall tone of civility and respect, even while airing very divergent views.”

Ververs addressed how producers of such a segment deal with content issues:

On the surface, it certainly appears contradictory for a segment touting free speech to have any constraints on it whatsoever. Of course, reality isn’t always so simple. CBS is responsible for what goes out over its airwaves and there are obviously constraints involved. The broadcast could not air anything that violates FCC standards, for example, or anything that is factually untrue or libelous to an individual. And there are some opinions that would simply be irresponsible to air – racial, religious and otherwise.

Hmmm. So, it’s not a right for people invited on a television network to speak about whatever they want? I wonder who suggested that?