June 6th, 2017 – Senator Al Franken has cancelled his scheduled appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher after the host used the n-word during a live interview with Senator Ben Sasse last week. Franken, the junior senator for Minnesota, announced yesterday that he would not tape the Friday episode adding that he was glad Maher had apologized.
“What Bill Maher said was inappropriate and offensive, which is why he made the decision not to appear on the next episode of ‘Real Time,’” a spokesman said in a statement. “He was glad to see Bill, who the senator considers to be a good friend, apologize and express sincere regret for his comment.”
Maher apologized following swift backlash saying “Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I’m up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn’t have said on my live show. Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry.”
Senator Franken has been a guest many times on the show bringing laughs and political perspective as a veteran comedian, writer and actor. Before election to the senate in 2008, Franken spent 15 years writing and performing on SNL, writing satirical political books, and hosting radio shows.
The senator has been on a book tour, dropping by many boundary-pushing comedic shows including Chelsea and Full Frontal. Al Franken: Giant of the Senatedetails his fight to stifle jokes in an attempt to be recognized as a serious political figure. But with a sense of security in his reelection, he’s now letting the jokes fly off the page.
And while he credits humor for helping him forge relationship with those across the political aisle, Maher’s joke seems to have crossed the line for any discussion on TV at this time. Franked also announced last week that Kathy Griffin will not be appearing with him at an event scheduled for July to promote his book. Griffin faced widespread criticism last week for sharing footage of a photoshoot where she’s holding the bloodied, severed head of Donald Trump.
The Friday episode of Real Time will have appearances from Ice Cube, former congressman David Jolly, and journalist David Gregory. Symone Sanders, activist and former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders, will also be a guest on Friday and has stated her hope to address the incident.
“I am still planning on doing the show Friday,” she said in an email to Huffington Post. “I thought Maher’s comment, Ben Sasse’s reaction and the crowd’s applause were all equally distasteful, inappropriate and offensive. I am glad Maher too recognized as such and issued an apology.”
“I look forward to a dialogue about it and other pressing issues of the week on Friday,” she added. “The n-word is not a joke to be thrown about and it is never OK to make light of slavery and/or the experiences of enslaved people.”
Do you think Senator Franken was right to cancel his booking on Real Time and his appearance with Kathy Griffin? Should more people be showing up to engage in dialogue about what happened?