Bill Maher and Milo Yiannopoulos had their controversial showdown on HBO’s Real Time on Friday night, though there were fewer sparks than some had expected.
The liberal talk show host and conservative Breitbart editor tried to find common ground during an 11-minute discussion (full video below), which made national headlines earlier this week after previously scheduled Real Time guest The Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill dropped out of the show to protest Yiannopoulos’ booking.
Maher and Yiannopoulos seemed to agree most when it came to the importance of comedy in general.
“The reason [liberals] want to police humor is they can’t control it — because the one thing all authoritarians hate is the sound of laughter,” Yiannopoulos said.
“And also because when people laugh they know it’s true,” Maher agreed. “… You are so helped by the fact that liberals always take the bait.”
“Nothing annoys people like the truth,” Yiannopoulos concurred. “Policing humor for racism and sexism is utterly wrongheaded. Not because normally it’s not there, but because that’s how we build bridges and not how we break them.”
Yet Yiannopoulos made blatant sexist comments during the interview, criticizing Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman as people who “used to be funny before they contracted feminism.”
“You’re literally the only good [liberal],” Yiannopoulos said, before slamming Girls creator and star Lena Dunham as the poster woman for the Democratic Party’s issues. “The Democrats are the party of Lena Dunham. These people are mental, hideous people, and the more that America sees of Lena Dunham, the fewer votes that the Democratic Party is going to get.”
“Let’s not pick on fellow HBO stars,” Maher replied, drawing laughs. “There are so many other people.”
“I hurt people for a reason,” Yiannopoulos said. “I like to think of myself as a virtuous troll.”
Yiannopoulos’ trolling made national headlines last year after he was barred from Twitter for attacking Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones. During the Friday night interview, Maher brought up the Jones incident and Yiannopoulos doubled down on his hateful rhetoric against the SNL star.
“I wrote a bad review of the movie. I said she look like a dude, she does. I said she’s barely literate, she is. And I simply don’t accept that the star of a Hollywood blockbuster is sitting in a Hollywood mansion crying over mean words on the internet; get over it. Mean words on the internet don’t hurt anyone,” he said.
Maher countered that some people would say that Yiannopoulos has inspired real-life violence with his messaging. “Well, then they would be idiots,” he replied, and at one point said to the Real Time audience, “You’re very easily triggered; it’s pathetic.”
Yiannopoulos also took aim Scahill for canceling on Maher. “That silly man who had a hissy fit,” Yiannopoulos called him. “If you don’t show up to debate, you lose.” Maher agreed, but then drew a stunned mix of laughter and howls from his audience when he tried to reject the perceived societal threat posed by Yiannopoulos by dismissing him as an “impish, British f-g.”
In the end, Maher also got the last word: “You should get off the Trump train. For a guy who loves free speech, you picked a weird boyfriend.”
Here’s the full video:
RELATED: Real Time debate panel gets heated as Larry Wilmore tells Yiannopoulos to “go f— yourself.”
Yiannopoulos’ booking on the HBO weekly talk show to promote his upcoming book, Dangerous, was considered controversial given his views which many consider sexist and racist. 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.”
Earlier this week, Scahill released a statement saying he would not appear on Maher’s show with Yiannopoulos as a guest.
“He has ample venues to spew his hateful diatribes,” Scahill wrote. “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.”
In response, Maher released his own statement. “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.”
Real Time airs Fridays on HBO.