Bill Maher is still being dragged after jokingly calling himself “a house nigga” while talking with Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse on the HBO show Real Time With Bill Maher. There is, of course, a historical context for referencing “house slaves” and “field slaves”—Malcolm X famously discussed the division in a 1963 speech. Maher referenced the practice of separating slaves as a joke to indicate he was above performing physical labor.
At best, this was objectively a miserably failed attempt at humor. At worst, for critics of Maher, this is further proof of the comic wrapping his racist, misogynist, Islamophobic views in a protective covering of liberalism, freedom of speech, and the shock value afforded to comics attempting to be provocative.
It’s also not the first time Maher has run into trouble for offensive comments. Here are five previous times the “habitual line-stepper” stepped over the line.
October 2014: The Mafia Quote
Ben Affleck, author Sam Harris and Maher got into a heated debate after Harris said, “Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas.” Maher essentially gave the Kanye shrug at this broad, Islamophobic generalization. As if that wasn't enough, he followed up by calling Islam “the only religion that acts like the mafia that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing.”
March 2015: Compares Zayn Malik to the Boston Marathon Bomber
Maher's infamous “New Rules” segment got a dose of casual racism courtesy of the comic comparing former One Direction member Zayn Malik to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Maher asked, “Just tell me two things, Zayn: Which one in the band were you? And where were you during the Boston Marathon?”
It should be noted Malik is part Pakistani, and the Boston Marathon bombers were half-Chechen. Maher went for a double dose of factual inaccuracy and racism.
September 2009: Laughs Off Tila Tequila's Abuse Claims
Before saying Hillary Clinton (and women in general) cry to get their way, Maher had nothing but jokes when then-San Diego Chargers defensive lineman Shawne Merriman was accused of abusing reality star Tila Tequila.
“New rule: stop acting surprised someone choked Tila Tequila,” Maher “joked.” “The surprise is that someone hasn’t choked this bitch sooner.”
April 2017: Shrugs Off Bill O'Reilly's Casual Racism
Much like his “house nigga” quote, Maher showed, to put it mildly, a lack of historical context about both sexism and racism when referencing Bill O’Reilly’s comments about U.S. Representative Maxine Waters’ hair (which were so bad that O’Reilly actually apologized). Maher dismissed O’Reilly’s clearly racist dig at Waters having a “James Brown wig” as Democrats getting riled up over nothing in the name of political correctness.
May 2010: Says Obama Isn't a "Real Black President"
The ongoing quest for the lowest hanging fruit continued in 2010, when Maher relied on racist stereotypes when talking about President Barack Obama.
“This is where I want a real black president,” Maher said. “I want him in a meeting with the BP CEOs where he lifts up his shirt so we can see the gun in his pants.”