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Laura Ingraham, facing the loss of multiple advertisers from her Fox News program, found a defender within the late-night television realm. Bill Maher addressed the situation with the conservative television host during a panel discussion on Friday night’s Real Time. His guests — and his audience — didn’t quite align with his stance.
“I wanna defend Laura Ingraham. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it has to do with the Parkland kids and guns and free speech,” Maher began. “Now, I think those kids did a great thing, they put this issue in a place we’ve never had it before and I wish them success. But if you’re gonna be out there in the arena and make yourselves the champions of this cause, people are going to have the right, I think, to argue back.”
David Hogg, a 17-year-old Parkland school shooting survivor and activist in the fight against gun violence, revealed to TMZ late last month that he didn’t get into some of the colleges to which he applied. Ingraham, then, shared a story from a right-leaning website, writing how “he whines about it.” Hogg responded by posting a list of the companies who advertise during The Ingraham Angle on Fox News, prompting many of these advertisers — including TripAdvisor, Nestlé, Wayfair, and Hulu — to pull their ads.
Ingraham offered an apology, saying “any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA.” She added, “On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland.” The damage, however, had seemingly already been done.
Maher believed Ingraham to be “a deliberately terrible person” who says “horrible things,” but argued that Hogg’s boycott is “the modern way of cutting off free speech.”
“Really? Is that American?” he asked, prompting some in his own audience members to shout, “Yes!” But Maher went on, “And [Hogg] complains about bullying? That’s bullying. I have been the victim of a boycott. I lost a job once. It is wrong. You shouldn’t do this by team, you should do this by principle.”
Maher was referring to how he was fired from his old show Politically Incorrect over comments he made about America in the weeks following the 9/11 terrorist attack.
He, too, got push back on the Ingraham situation from his panelists. “She has the right to say whatever she wants with very, very few exceptions,” former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer responded. “We have the right to speak back. When we have the right to speak back, think of the Civil Rights movement. Boycotting is part of free speech. Saying I don’t want to work with that person, saying I will not buy a product from that person, that’s speech!”
Economic equality advocate Heather McGhee also remarked, “I hate when the term ‘free speech’ is used in this commercial context because the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee you the right to have a soap advertisement in between your segments, which is what we’re saying here. It’s about government infringement.”
Maher called it “a very chilling atmosphere when this happens ’cause it could happen to any of you by the way.”
“It’s the price that we pay,” McGhee said.
See more of their discussion in the video above.