- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Georgetown University professor and author Michael Eric Dyson will replace Sen. Al Franken on “Real Time with Bill Maher” this Friday, after the Minnesota Democrat canceled his appearance over Mr. Maher’s use of the N-word on air.

Mr. Dyson, who is black, came to Mr. Maher’s defense amid backlash for using the racial slur, calling the late-night comedian an “ally to black people” who has used his platform to amplify black voices.

“He has bravely, and relentlessly, pilloried racism, white privilege, and white indifference to the black plight,” Mr. Dyson wrote. “Plus, he has, from the start, featured brilliant black personalities on his shows, whether on network TV or now cable. In short, he has used his platform to highlight black faces, and amplify black voices, that might never have otherwise been given such a prominent perch to tell their truths. Given the Bill Maher I know, he will use this opportunity to strengthen his role as an ally to black people.”

Mr. Maher was conducting a live interview with Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse Friday night on HBO’s “Real Time” when the comedian dropped the racial epithet while discussing the senator’s home state.

“I’ve got to get to Nebraska more,” Mr. Maher said.

“You’re welcome,” Mr. Sasse responded. “We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.”

“Work in the fields?” Mr. Maher replied. “Senator, I am a house [N-word].”

The exchange that aired live and uncensored has sparked widespread criticism, including from the TV host’s own employer.

“Bill Maher’s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless,” HBO’s executive vice president of corporate communications, Quentin Schaffer, said in a statement Saturday. “We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.”

Mr. Maher also issued an apology Saturday afternoon.

“Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I’m reflecting on the things I should or shouldn’t have said on my live show,” he said. “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.”

A spokesperson for Mr. Franken told the Huffington Post Monday that the senator would not go through with his scheduled “Real Time” appearance in light of the controversy.

However, Republican Rep. David Jolly, Ice Cube and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ former press secretary, Symone Sanders, have indicated they will appear on the show as planned.

“Politics is the arena where hard issues are confronted, and as [Theodore Roosevelt] said, faces get a little dusty,” Mr. Jolly told the Post in an email. “We need more politicians with the courage to get in the arena, instead of sitting out tough debates in the name of self-preservation.”

An Ice Cube spokesperson told the Post: “Ice Cube will still appear on Bill Maher this Friday as scheduled to talk about the release of ‘Death Certificate: 25th Anniversary’ edition, an album that was recorded in the wake of the Rodney King beating in 1991, which sadly, speaks to many of the same race issues that we as a society are still dealing with today.”

Ms. Sanders said Mr. Maher’s comment was “distasteful” and “inappropriate,” but said she appreciated the comedian’s apology.

“I look forward to a dialogue about it and other pressing issues of the week on Friday,” she told the Post in an email. “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.”

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