Both MSNBC and CNN have devolved into a feeding frenzy over Rush Limbaugh’s crack last week about a Georgetown law student, with hosts on both networks scolding Limbaugh for his words and fantasizing the conservative radio powerhouse will get knocked off the airwaves.
But an MRC review finds those networks had no negative reaction to far more vulgar and sexist language used by HBO host Bill Maher. Instead, both networks have hosted Maher repeatedly (12 times in the past year) in softball formats where the journalists ritually flatter the vulgarian: “Your show is brilliant,” “I love your show,” “You’re the funniest, smartest guy around.”
If either CNN or MSNBC genuinely cared about the use of insulting language toward women, they could stop providing the vile Maher with a regular platform to promote his show and his left-wing views.
[Warning: this article includes uncensored vulgarities to accurately represent what Bill Maher has said about conservative women.]
Here’s what CNN’s Piers Morgan said about Rush Limbaugh on Friday: “Limbaugh’s disgusting comments are the work of an archaic old dinosaur living in a warped, ugly swamp, who thinks it’s okay to degrade decent young women for sport and ratings. Well, it isn’t it. Shame on you, Rush Limbaugh.”
The next morning, NBC’s Today show brought on MSNBC host Al Sharpton to lambaste Limbaugh: “You can’t have him as a major spokesman in your movement and then he says something as offensive and misogynist as this.”
Monday, on MSNBC’s The Ed Show, host Ed Schultz — who last year had to apologize after he called conservative radio host Laura Ingraham a “slut” — urged liberals to exploit Limbaugh’s use of the same term (also with an apology) to get his show cancelled. Schultz fantasized: “If there is a time to get him off the air, this is the push. I mean, if women in this country are serious about what they hear on the free airwaves of America, there’s no better time.”
Now, here’s a rundown of some demeaning language used by Bill Maher in just a nine day period last March:
■ On March 18, 2011, Maher, on his HBO show Real Time, employed a crude term for a female body part when talking about Sarah Palin: “Sarah Palin finally heard what happened in Japan, and she’s demanding that we invade Tsunami. I mean, she says, ‘These Tsunamians will not get away with this.’ Oh speaking of dumb twats....”
■ A week later, on his March 25 show, Maher insulted Palin and Michele Bachman as “bimbos.” Talking about the GOP field, Maher argued: “If Bachmann and Palin get in, that’s two bimbos, and then there’s Mitt Romney, a millionaire, and Newt Gingrich, a professor. We just need a skipper and a buddy – we’ve got Gilligan’s Island.”
■ Two days after that, on March 28, Maher employed the C-word in talking about Palin during a show in Dallas. According to a favorable review in the Dallas Voice: “It’s that fearlessness — he acknowledged that some people would probably be uncomfortable with some of his remarks about religion, not to mention calling Sarah Palin a ‘cunt’ (‘there’s just no other word for her’) — that makes Maher the most dangerous person in comedy.”
But none of this prompted any of the scolding that has greeted Limbaugh’s transgression. In fact, in the days and months that followed, CNN and MSNBC cheerfully included Maher a dozen times as a guest in their line-up. Only Chuck Todd, filling for Chris Matthews on Hardball, brought up Maher’s vicious comments just one day after the day after his Dallas event: “Any regrets on what you said?”
Maher, predictably, said he wasn’t sorry: “I’m not trying to hurt somebody’s feelings. But if you want me to say ‘I’m sorry, what I said was wrong,’ no, sorry, I can’t go there.”
These demeaning comments have not caused the news networks to sour on Maher, as he continues to make regular appearances and receive pats on the back from CNN and MSNBC hosts:
■ On March 22, 2011 — in the midst of his storm of nasty comments about conservative women, Maher appeared on CNN’s In the Arena. Host Eliot Spitzer did not ask about Maher’s “dumb twat” insult of Palin from four days earlier, or pose any hostile questions to Maher. Spitzer ended by genuflecting: “Your show is brilliant. I love watching it.”
■ On March 29, 2011, Maher made his MSNBC Hardball appearance with Chuck Todd, as noted above. While Todd — unlike CNN’s Spitzer — did ask Maher about how he was “getting hammered in the conservative blogosphere, among a lot of conservative hosts” for his nasty comments about Palin and Bachmann, he was in no way judgmental.
Todd ended that interview by publicizing both Maher’s upcoming show on HBO as well as appearances in Indiana and North Carolina. “Bill Maher, always entertaining to have you on.”
■ On April 12, 2011, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow hosted Maher, and not once asked about his nasty comments about women. Instead of scolding Maher for his deplorable remarks, Maddow was thrilled to have him: “It is nice to see you....I’m very excited....Thank you so much for being on with us, Bill. It’s really nice to see you. Thank you.”
■ On May 3, 2011, Maher popped up on The Joy Behar Show on CNN’s Headline News Network. Behar fawned over her guest: “I love your show. I watch you every week, and I really get irritated when they put you on hiatus.”
■ On May 17, 2011, Maher showed up on MSNBC’s Hardball, where Chris Matthews touted him as their “star guest.” Maher trashed Michele Bachmann as a “frothing loon,” jabbing that “Bachmann is the candidate for people who find Palin too intellectual.”
■ On June 14, 2011, CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed Maher about the GOP debate. Maher unleashed his usual invective, declaring that the Republican candidates “have just horrible, society-killing ideas about America.”
■ On July 11, 2011, Maher appeared as a guest on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, and made the host laugh with a crude reference to Palin and Michele Bachmann. Morgan asked Maher about the GOP nomination: “If you had a choice, gun to your head, which one is it? Palin or Bachmann?”
Maher replied: “I would need a gun to my head. I hope Sarah Palin gets in so that they split the MILF vote.” MILF is an acronym for a “Mother I’d Like to Fuck.” The CNN host ended the interview by telling Maher: “May you remain gloriously uncensored on HBO...Love the show.”
■ On August 3, 2011, fill-in host Michael Eric Dyson had “the great Bill Maher” on MSNBC’s The Ed Show. Dyson touted Maher as “my very good friend.”
■ On October 11, 2011, Maher returned to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show, which Maddow eagerly promoted. “The one and only Bill Maher is going to be here for an interview tonight,” she promised viewers. Talking about the radical Occupy protesters, Maher used the occasion to suggest violence against Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch: “If a brick came through Rupert Murdoch’s window, I have a feeling Fox News would be a lot more gentle on the Wall Street people....”
■ On January 25, 2012, CNN’s Cooper brought Maher onto his show to talk about Obama’s State of the Union speech and the Republican nomination contest. During that interview, Maher made a derogatory reference to Mormons, predicting Romney would be the nominee and: “I think Obama is going to beat him like a runaway sister wife.” Cooper winced: “Geez, your runaway sister wife? I haven’t heard an LDS punchline in quite a while.”
■ On February 27, 2012, Chris Matthews was thrilled to see Maher back on Hardball where he talked about the Republican “crazies” and “idiots.” “Hey, Maher, you’re the best,” Matthews flattered. “You’re the funniest, smartest guy around....Thank you, Bill Maher — you’re an Irish guy, too. Thank you for coming on.”
■ That same night, Morgan interviewed Maher again, this time prompted by his $1 million donation to Obama’s SuperPAC. Maher mocked Christianity: “You’re allowed to have your opinion that a Palestinian 2,000 years ago walked on water and did magic tricks and was really — he’s really still his own father and all that stuff.” As always, Morgan was delighted: “Bill Maher, always a great pleasure.”
Obviously, there’s a certain amount of show business in the media fawning over Bill Maher, but it underscores how utterly unbothered they are by his frequent, nasty comments about conservative women. With that as context, it’s hard not to see those networks’ flamboyant outrage at Rush Limbaugh as nothing more than opportunism by liberals out to destroy the most successful conservative in the media.