Politics

Maher calls efforts to pressure Rush Limbaugh’s sponsors ‘the system being manipulated’

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Jeff Poor
Media Reporter

On his Friday HBO program “Real Time,” Bill Maher elaborated on a tweet he posted earlier in the week offering a semi-defense of conservative talker Rush Limbaugh, who called Georgetown law student and self-proclaimed contraception activist Sandra Fluke “a prostitute” and “a slut.”

Maher argued that, although he disagreed with Limbaugh, he shouldn’t be forced from the airwaves. Many advertisers have pulled their sponsorship of Limbaugh’s radio program..

“I got crap from both the left and the right this week because — OK, let me address the left first, because I found this more disheartening,” Maher said. “They were very mad at me because I tweeted that people like Rush Limbaugh — who I absolutely disagree with, I’ve never said a good word about him, I did a whole monologue about what an asshole he was only a week ago — but I said I don’t like it that people are made to disappear when they say something or people try to make them disappear when they say something you don’t like. That’s America. Sometimes you’re made to feel uncomfortable, OK?”

Maher proceeded to attack Limbaugh, but warned of the potential chilling effect the situation would have for speech.

“Can we put this in perspective?” Maher said. “No one died. A guy made a bad joke, a bad joke because a — it was a disgusting sentiment that he was evoking and also because it wasn’t even a joke. It’s a stupid fat fuck who is not funny and it annoys me that people who cannot keep two disparate thoughts in their own mind lump me in together with him and say I’m defending him. I’m not defending him. I’m defending living in a country where people don’t have to be afraid that they might go out of the bounds for one minute. Do we all want to be talking like White House spokesmen?”

Maher faced a similar threat to his show’s advertisers in 2002 in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, when he called the United States’ tactics in the war on terror “cowardly.”

“Let me give you a quote from the ACLU, liberals,” he said. “[T]he ACLU — what more liberal bastion is there than that? ‘It is easy to defend freedom of speech when the message is something that many find reasonable, but the defense of freedom of speech is more critical when the message is something that most people find repulsive.’ We’re looking at you, Rush Limbaugh. But you know what? I would rather put up with Rush Limbaugh and live in a country where we all do have freedom of speech. And the people who I’ve heard say, when they put pressure on his sponsors, the system is working. No it’s not. That’s the system being manipulated. I lived through that 10 years ago.”

Maher also rejected attacks from the right and denied he was a misogynist. He admitted only that he is a “potty mouth” and that he was sorry if his attacks on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin were construed as an attack on women.

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