WARNING: This story contains offensive language.
UPDATE: Bill Maher issued an apology on Saturday for using the N-word during an interview on Real Time Friday night.
“Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I’m up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn’t have said on my live show,” he said in a statement. “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.”
ORIGINAL STORY: HBO denounced Bill Maher for his “completely inexcusable and tasteless” use of a racial slur on Friday’s episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, joining a chorus of celebrities and activists calling out the comic for saying the N-word.
“Bill Maher’s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless. We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show,” HBO said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly.
Maher uttered the slur while joking with Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, on Friday night.
Sasse appeared as a guest to promote his new book, The Vanishing American Adult, and noted how adults dressing up for Halloween is “frowned upon” more in his state than in other areas. When Maher said, “I’ve got to get to Nebraska more,” Sasse replied, “We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.”
Maher responded, “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house n—-r.” While the interview was not posted to HBO’s official YouTube or social media channels, a clip of the controversial comment was captured by online users and went viral thanks to shares from activists like DeRay Mckesson, among others.
Maher’s comment drew instant ire. Westworld star Jeffrey Wright wrote, “When even house n—–ship is appropriated, there’s pretty much nothing left. And, I mean, who really wants that s—?”
Comedian Michael Ian Black also slammed Maher.
Chance The Rapper appealed directly to the network, writing, “Please @HBO Do Not Air Another Episode Of Real Time With Bill Maher.”
Others on both sides of the political spectrum also called for Maher’s firing.
Sasse did not speak out about the comment at the time of the interview, though he addressed the interview later on social media.
“Am walking off a redeye from LAX. 3 reflections on @billmaher,” he wrote in a series of tweets. “1. I’m a 1st Amendment absolutist. Comedians get latitude to cross hard lines. 2. But free speech comes with a responsibility to speak up when folks use that word. Me just cringing last night wasn’t good enough. 3. Here’s what I wish I’d been quick enough to say in the moment: ‘Hold up, why would you think it’s OK to use that word?…The history of the n-word is an attack on universal human dignity. It’s therefore an attack on the American Creed. Don’t use it.'”
This post has been updated throughout.