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James Hibberd
February 15, 2017 AT 07:08 PM EST

UPDATE: Bill Maher is defending booking right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. After The Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill declared on Twitter he was withdrawing from Friday’s show in protest of Yiannopoulos being booked as a guest on the program (details below), the host issued a statement in reply, taking issue with Scahill’s suggestion that Maher is anti-Islamic and explaining the reasoning behind the Yiannopoulos booking.

“My comments on Islam have never veered into vitriol,” Maher replied in a statement obtained by EW. “Liberals will continue to lose elections as long as they follow the example of people like Mr. Scahill whose views veer into fantasy and away from bedrock liberal principles like equality of women, respect for minorities, separation of religion and state, and free speech. If Mr. Yiannopoulos is indeed the monster Scahill claims — and he might be — nothing could serve the liberal cause better than having him exposed on Friday night.”

PREVIOUS: A guest booked on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher says he has canceled his appearance on Friday’s show to protest the booking of another guest — controversial right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

The Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill posted a lengthy statement on Twitter explaining he informed the show’s producers he wasn’t going to appear as previously planned, noting that despite being a longtime supporter of the show, the inclusion of Breitbart News editor Yiannopoulos was “a bridge too far.”

“He has ample venues to spew his hateful diatribes,” Scahill wrote (full statement below). “There is no value in debating him. Appearing on Real Time will provide Yiannopoulos with a large, important platform to openly advocate his racist, anti-immigrant campaign. …  Yiannopoulos’s appearance could also be used to incite violence against immigrants, transgender people, and others at a time when the Trump Administration is already seeking to formalize a war against some of the most vulnerable people in our society. … I cannot participate in an event that will give a platform to such a person.”

On Friday’s episode of Real Time, Yiannopoulos is booked as the top-of-show interview.

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Earlier this month, a planned speech by Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley was canceled a couple of hours before the event “out of concern for public safety” after protesters caused $100,000 worth of damage to the campus and two students were attacked. President Trump later slammed the decision on Twitter. Last year Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter after taking part in harassing messages targeting Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones.

HBO had no immediate comment.

After this piece was published, Real Time booked MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance as a replacement for Scahill.

Here’s Scahill’s full statement:

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