Sharpton Slams Maher for Using Racial Epithet: 'He Doesn't Get a Pass'

June 4, 2017

MSNBC host and civil rights activist Al Sharpton slammed liberal comedian Bill Maher on Sunday for jokingly calling himself a "house nigger" on his HBO program, saying "he doesn't get a pass because we're friends."

Maher made the remark during an interview Friday with Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.), who had invited the comedian to his home state of Nebraska to "work in the fields."

"Work in the fields? Senator, I'm a house nigger," Maher said, as the crowd groaned and laughed.

"Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no," Sharpton said on "Politics Nation" after playing the clip. "There are no exceptions that make this acceptable. Yes, comedians are expected to cross some hard lines, I get it. But let's be clear. Free speech comes with a responsibility to speak up when folks use that word, and that's what I'm doing now."

The history of the n-word, Sharpton said, is an attack on dignity and the American creed.

"You cannot allow anyone to act like there's anything funny in any context about using that word," Sharpton said. "You have to have one standard, no matter who it is."

Sharpton said Maher did not "get a pass" just because they were friends.

Maher subsequently apologized, and HBO slammed the remark as "inexcusable" and announced the clip would be edited out of all future airings of that episode.

Sharpton also discussed the saga of Kathy Griffin, who drew widespread outrage this week for posing for a photo of her holding a decapitated head of Donald Trump.

"Comedians are not having a good week, at least in my book," he said.

Sharpton struggled with pronouncing Sasse's name during the segment, pronouncing it "sassy" on three different occasions. His name is pronounced "sass."

UPDATE: 9:11 A.M.: This article was updated with video of Sharpton's struggles to pronounce Sasse's last name.

Published under: Al Sharpton , MSNBC