Bill Maher will return to host Real Time on HBO this week after drawing criticism for uttering a racial slur on the air.
HBO confirmed to EW that Maher will appear on the show Friday, though his long-term future at the network remains unclear.
This week’s episode will not go on completely as planned: Senator Al Franken of Minnesota has canceled his scheduled appearance.
“Senator Franken believes that what Bill Maher said was inappropriate and offensive, which is why he made the decision not to appear on the next episode of Real Time,” spokesperson Michael Dale-Stein said in a statement to EW. “He was glad to see Bill, who the Senator considers to be a good friend, apologize and express sincere regret for his comment.”
Maher ignited controversy last Friday when he used the N-word during an interview with Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, who appeared on Real Time to promote his book The Vanishing American Adult. Maher uttered the slur while joking with Sasse about visiting his state. Sasse had noted that adults don’t typically dress up for Halloween in the Cornhusker State, prompting Maher to say, “I’ve got to get to Nebraska more.”
Sasse replied, “We’d love to have you work in the fields with us,” and Maher responded, “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house n—–.”
Maher’s remark was widely condemned online, and HBO released a statement Saturday morning denouncing it as “completely inexcusable and tasteless.”
Maher issued an apology, saying in a statement, “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. 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.”