Bill's Biggest Controversies

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From Sarah Palin to Tim Tebow and the Pope, Maher has skewered many big names -- and sometimes felt the backlash.

Tim Tebow: On Dec. 24, Maher called out devout Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow for kneeling in prayer ("Tebowing") during the Broncos' 40-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills, tweeting: "Wow, Jesus just f---ed #TimTebow bad! And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is tebowing, saying to Hitler 'Hey, Buffalo's killing them.'" The tweet prompted some to urge a boycott of Maher's HBO show.

Sarah Palin: Maher called the former Alaska governor a "dumb twat" in a March 2011 Real Time joke, drawing rebukes by the National Organization for Women and Fox News' Greta Van Susteren. "By insulting her gender, rather than her platform or stance on issues, he insults women as a group," one activist wrote. Maher now says he didn't realize the word was so offensive.

The Pope: Before a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to the U.S in 2008, Maher called the church "a child-abusing religious cult" whose leader "has a compound," "operates outside the bounds of the law," "used to be a Nazi and wears funny hats." The Catholic League said Maher "lied when he said the pope used to be a Nazi." Maher apologized, sort of. "I will never make 'the pope is a Nazi' joke again," he said.

Big Pharma: In a Real Time rant against prescription drug companies, Maher said in 2007, "If you believe you need to take all the pills the pharmaceutical industry says you do, then you're already on drugs." He later called people who get flu shots "idiots" and urged parents to feed their children LSD on Halloween to make a point about the dangers of refined sugar and behavior drugs like Ritalin.

The Disabled: On P.I. in 2001, Maher likened mentally disabled children to his dogs. "They're sweet. They're loving. They're kind. But they don't mentally advance at all," he said. The comment prompted an apology from then-ABC chief Stu Bloomberg, and Maher expressed uncharacteristic regret: "I make no excuses," he said. "I was wrong, and what I said was hurtful to people, and I feel terrible about it."

9/11: Less than a week after the attacks, Maher said on P.I. that the terrorists weren't cowards. "We have been the cowards," he said. "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." The White House condemned the statement, and 17 ABC affiliates dropped the show.