This story and video contains a racial slur that may be offensive to some readers.
HBO late-night host Bill Maher drew quick and widespread condemnation Friday night for using a racial epithet in an interview with Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.
Shortly after 10 p.m., Maher, the comedian and host of HBO’s “Real Time,” was talking to Sasse on his program about the boundaries between adolescence and maturity, and how adults in California still dress up for Halloween.
When Sasse said this did not happen in his state, Maher said, “I’ve got to get to Nebraska more.”
Sasse replied: “You’re welcome. We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.”
Maher said: “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house nigger. No, it’s a joke.”
Some audience members were heard to groan while others clapped. Neither Maher nor Sasse addressed the comments further, and the conversation moved to other subjects.
The epithet was not bleeped out when the episode was rebroadcast at midnight.
On social media, Maher’s remarks were criticized by viewers across the political spectrum.
DeRay Mckesson, a prominent activist for the Black Lives Matter movement, wrote on his Twitter account: “But really, @BillMaher has got to go. There are no explanations that make this acceptable.”
Jack Posobiec, an alt-right activist and commentator, wrote on Twitter, “Racist Bill Maher must be fired and @BenSasse must be held accountable for his endorsement of the n-word.”
Other commenters on social media posted tweets asking why Sasse did not immediately take issue with Maher’s remarks.
Maher, who is in his 15th season of hosting “Real Time,” has been criticized for making comments on his show and in his comedy act that have been perceived as Islamophobic and for giving a platform to controversial figures like incendiary right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.
A press representative for HBO on Friday night referred questions to Maher’s personal publicists, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On his Twitter account, Sasse quoted a tweet from another user who praised his conversation with Maher, adding his own comment: “your tweet was too long (but then you just cheated by taking a picture of the overage words. Crafty)”