HBO's Bill Maher Books Milo Yiannopoulos, Journalist Jeremy Scahill Cancels Appearance
"If Mr. Yiannopoulos is indeed the monster Scahill claims – and he might be – nothing could serve the liberal cause better than having him exposed on Friday night," Maher said.
Perhaps knowing that it would invite a firestorm, HBO's Real Time booked Milo Yiannopoulos on its Friday show, prompting the cancelation of an appearance of a prominent journalist who refused to debate the hard-right figure.
On Wednesday morning, the premium cabler said that Yiannopoulos would appear on the February 17 edition of the series along with Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of the news website The Intercept.
Yiannopoulos recently nabbed a book deal with Simon & Schuster imprint Threshold Editions. He has been on a speaking tour of college campuses, bringing a wave of protests to each stop, notably at U.C. Berkeley, where his appearance was canceled.
Yiannopoulos has said that he does not consider himself alt-right, despite being deemed a face of the movement that embraces "implicit or explicit racism or white supremacy," as the Anti-Defamation League labeled it. He was also banned by Twitter in 2016 for harassment of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones.
Maher had recently lobbied to have Yiannopoulos on his show, in a move that may alienate the host's progressive viewers. Scahill, for one, decided against appearing on Real Time.
"Yiannopoulos is many bridges too far. He has ample venues to spew his hateful diatribes. There is no value in 'debating' him," Scahill, who has appeared multiple times on the HBO show, wrote.
Scahill added: "Appearing on Real Time will provide Yiannopoulos with a large, important platform to openly advocate for his racist, anti-immigrant campaign."
Maher defended the booking in a statement on Thursday, saying that "liberals will continue to lose elections as long as they follow the example of people like Mr. Scahill whose views veer into fantasy and away from bedrock liberal principles like equality of women, respect for minorities, separation of religion and state and free speech."
Maher also said: "If Mr. Yiannopoulos is indeed the monster Scahill claims – and he might be – nothing could serve the liberal cause better than having him exposed on Friday night."
Real Time also said Thursday that international terrorism expert Malcolm Nance would replace Scahill in the lineup for Friday's show. Also originally scheduled for the roundtable were guests Rep. Jack Kingston and Larry Wilmore.
Feb. 16, 8:01 a.m. This story has been updated throughout, also including Maher's statement.