Appearing on ABC's Good Morning America, Monday, to shill for his latest book, Bill Maher told George Stephanopoulos he's rooting for Mitt Romney to win the Republican nomination. "At least he eats with a knife and fork. I mean, he is all that stands between us and the rise of the apes."
Couldn't that be seen as a bit racist toward Herman Cain? We're used to Maher slamming religious folks in that way, but "apes"? Stephanopoulos didn't blink. He only said "He's [Romney's] probably odds-on, although Newt Gingrich..." [MP3 audio here .]
ABC presented Maher as utterly non-controversial, as if he was your standard Ray Romano or Jerry Seinfeld (and certainly not like a Dennis Miller). Weather man Sam Champion promoted the event: "Coming up next, Bill Maher is in our studio. So, get ready to smile, laugh, have a good time with Bill."
But you bring on Maher if you want to trash (a) conservatives or (b) religious Americans. Stephanopoulos began like he was talking to a garden-variety comic:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, what's got you irritated this morning?
MAHER: Being up in the morning. I'm not irritated. I'm a comedian. So, I'm living high on the hog on this presidential campaign.
Maher offered an endorsement that Mitt Romney probably doesn't want, exclaiming, "I'm rooting for him." He added, "You have got to feel bad for Mitt Romney. I mean, he's been led, so far, by Trump, then Bachmann. Then Perry. Then Cain." This led to Maher's very questionable "ape" comment, as captured by MRC's Scott Whitlock:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have got- And- I saw you and you have got either, very, very rich, or very very certain of your opinions. Because on, what, Friday night, you offered a million to one bet, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera put up a dollar. You put up a million saying Herman Cain will not be president.
MAHER: Yeah. Yeah, that was a couple years ago. That was even before the sex scandal. You know? Yes. I think I would bet a million dollars against Herman Cain. Wouldn't you take that bet? Is not going to be the candidate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Only reason I wouldn't. I agree with your bottom line. I just don't feel like putting up a million dollars to one.
MAHER: No. And I don't really have that kind of money to lose on a bet either. But, I mean, this is a guy wearing a pimp hat through a scandal, a sex scandal. So, I feel like that pretty much sealed my thing. This is a guy who has a tax plan that we found out was written pretty much by his branch manager at Wells Fargo. You know?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Out in Cleveland.
MAHER: He went into cash some checks and the teller said, "Can I do anything else for you?" And he said, "Yeah, could you rewrite the tax code for the United States of America?"
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet, he's, he's still leading the field. Still is. I mean, he's starting to fall just a little, but still leading the field.
MAHER: But, that's just because they hate Mitt Romney.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They do.
MAHER: You have got to feel bad for Mitt Romney. I mean, he's been led, so far, by Trump, then Bachmann. Then Perry. Then Cain.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, he kinda hangs in there. He's everyone's second choice.
MAHER: I'm rooting for him. You know? Because, look, in a country with only two parties, the Republican can always win. I mean, at least he eats with a knife and fork. I mean, he is all that stands between us and the rise of the apes.
Can you imagine how "apes" would be greeted as part of a joke about Obama or the Democratic field four years ago? Would Stephanopoulos just glide to the next point? Apparently, no liberal was scandalized when Maher joked in September 2010 when Maher joked "Isn't Obama's big problem is that he does everything half-assed? Maybe it's because he's only half black."
George wasn't going to review Maher as if he were someone whose outrageous statements deserve questioning. He just moved on to the next Republican beat-down:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Although Newt Gingrich, with what a comeback for him.
MAHER: Surging. Newt is surging, which is never good for Mrs. Gingrich.
STEPHANOPOULOS [Laughs]: No. It's always good for her. She gets to go back to Tiffany's.
MAHER: If he stays with her. Yes, the intellectual, I always hear of the Republican Party. The foremost intellectual, which always makes me laugh.
GMA's Stephanopoulos bizarrely tried to spin the very liberal Maher as non-partisan. He first introduced him as an "equal opportunity hit man." Continuing the charade, Stephanopoulos added, "You've been pretty tough on President Obama, too."
Of course, Maher didn't help him out much. He explained yes, he hits both parties (ahem, from the far left), but the Republicans are making him a big Obama booster: "Yeah. I mean, that's my job, to hold their feet to the fire, no matter what party and who is in power. But, I'll tell you this, after watching all these Republican debates, I'm ever more an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama. I mean, that will make you run back into his arms very quickly.
The ABC interview turned to the Penn State scandal, and Maher and Stephanopoulos agreed that it showed men were all pigs:
MAHER: But, the other point I wanted to make, any institution where there are no women, football, the church, the Middle East, fraternities. It always-
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bad news, right?
MAHER: It always goes bad. You know, you really do need women around as a moderating influence.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There's just no question about that. Every in my house would agree.
MAHER: You have all women. Right?
STEPHANOPOULOS: All women.
Women never seem to have a "moderating influence" on Bill Maher. Sexism is always delightful when the negative overgeneralizations are made about men. It might make a viewer think that Stephanopoulos was channeling Harry "Most Men are Putzes"  Smith.
— Tim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center. Click here  to follow Tim Graham on Twitter.