Bill Maher Says That His Use of the N-Word Was ‘Not a Racist Mistake,’ Pushes Back on Ice Cube’s Critique

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Bill Maher. Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images

It’s been more than a month since Bill Maher said the N-word live on-air, and in a recent New York Times Table for Three” interview with Fran Lebowitz and Philip Galanes, the Real Time host reflected on the controversy and what he sees as the ultimate public consensus. “I think most people understood that it was a comedian’s mistake, not a racist mistake,” Maher said, after Galanes asked if he was worried about losing his job. The Times conversation then shifted in focus to Ice Cube, who Maher claims had tried to get him “to admit things that aren’t true.” Ice Cube argued on the June 9 episode of Real Time that Maher’s use of the N-word was a natural consequence of his toeing the line on matters of race and comedy for years. “When Ice Cube said something about my telling black jokes … I’ve never made black jokes,” Maher said. “I’ve made jokes about racists. But my fan base knows that, so it never went anywhere.” Leaving aside Maher’s history of making racially objectionable comments — and whether that discussion really “never went anywhere” — it appears that at least a portion of Ice Cube’s powerful response didn’t stick to the Real Time host. Indeed, Ice Cube made a very strong case for why the incident was a “racist mistake,” to borrow Maher’s term, but it’s clear that at least one person wasn’t quite convinced by it.

Bill Maher: Use of the N-Word Was ‘Not a Racist Mistake’