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Bill Maher may have defended Rush Limbaugh, but that doesn’t mean he approves of the crude words that got the conservative radio host in trouble in the first place.
Following Limbaugh’s semi-apology for his attacks on Georgetown student and birth control advocate Sandra Fluke, whom he called a “slut” and a “prostitute,” Maher tweeted that he thought the mea culpa was sufficient enough and that liberals were looking bad for not accepting the remorse.
The defense earned him some serious blowback from the left, which was just the beginning of his headaches. Citing the sexist terms he used to describe Sarah Palin in a standup comedy act and on his HBO show, Maher has become the target of conservative and women’s groups, who have worked to equate him with Limbaugh and demand that, amongst other things, President Obama return the $1 million check Maher gave to his Super PAC. On Wednesday, it was confirmed that Obama adviser David Axelrod would not be a guest on Maher’s show despite having made a tenuous plan to appear.
In a new interview with ABC News‘ Jake Tapper, Maher fights back against those charges and comparisons.
“To compare that to Rush is ridiculous – he went after a civilian about very specific behavior, that was a lie, speaking for a party that has systematically gone after women’s rights all year, on the public airwaves,” Maher said. “I used a rude word about a public figure who gives as good as she gets, who’s called people ‘terrorist’ and ‘unAmerican.’ Sarah Barracuda. The First Amendment was specifically designed for citizens to insult politicians. Libel laws were written to protect law students speaking out on political issues from getting called whores by Oxycontin addicts.”
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As for other accusations of using sexist language, Maher isn’t buying it. “Of course if you take out of context over 10 years snippets inside comedy bits you can make anyone look bad – and sometimes, I have been!” he added. “Not perfect, but not misogyny. In general, this is an obvious right wing attempt to dredge up some old shit about me to deflect from their self-inflicted problems. They are the kings of false equivalencies.”
Many comedians have come out and made that same argument; Michael Ian Black wrote in a blog post last week that attacks on Maher and Louis C.K., who pulled out of a keynote speech at the Radio and Television Congressional Correspondents Association Dinner after Greta Van Susteren protested over his Twitter rants against Palin, are misunderstanding what comedians do.
“Did Louis cross the line? Yeah. Did Bill Maher? Yeah. Have I at times? Yeah. Has Greta Van Susteren ever crossed the line? Have you, in your personal conversations? Yeah. We all have,” Black wrote. “The difference is context. Do a Google search of the horrible s–t Rush Limbaugh has said about women. Then do a search on Louis C.K. See if it’s comparable. Louis did use those words, and opted to drop out of an incestuous Washington dinner party rather than make himself the focus of this recurring debate on language.”
Still, Maher defends Limbaugh’s right to remain on the air, despite an active movement to encourage the radio host’s sponsors to leave his show, and says that defending speech doesn’t equal defending words.
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