The 'Real Time' host was promptly met with a healthy backlash

By David Canfield
January 04, 2018 at 02:37 PM EST
Mike Coppola/VF17/Getty Images; Monica Schipper/Getty Images

With the help of Bob Saget, Bill Maher mockingly recreated the now-infamous photo of former U.S. Senator Al Franken groping a woman, eliciting a sharp backlash.

Maher, who hosts HBO’s Real Time, indicated via a tweet that the staged photo he took with Saget took place around New Year’s Eve, when the pair were staying together in Hawaii. “These New Years Hawaii trips are getting weird,” Maher cracked. “Saget, forgive me!”

The original photo of Franken, which surfaced late last year, was resurfaced by the apparent victim, Leeann Tweeden, a reporter. It took place in 2006, when, according to Tweeden, Franken kissed her during a rehearsal and also shared a photo of Franken smiling to the camera as he grabbed her breasts while she slept. Franken issued a public apology in response, which Tweeden accepted. “Dear Leeann, I want to apologize to you personally,” Franken said. “I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, but that doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse and I understand why you could feel violated by that photo. I remember that rehearsal differently, but what’s important is that [sic] the impact it had on you and you felt violated by my actions, and for that I apologize. I have tremendous respect for your work for the USO and I am ashamed that my actions ruined that experience for you. I am so sorry. Sincerely, Al Franken.”

Pressure for then-Senator Franken to resign mounted as more women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct. He announced his resignation on Dec. 7 in an emotional speech on the Senate floor before leaving his post officially after the New Year.

Many responded unfavorably to Maher’s tweet. “Jokes about sexual misconduct are: easy, not funny, offensive,” one reply read. On Real Time, Maher had previously inserted himself into the debate over the severity of Franken’s actions by saying Franken deserved condemnation, but did not deserve to be lumped in with the likes of Roy Moore, the former U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama who was accused of sexually assaulting and molesting children. (Moore denies the allegations.)

Maher previously attracted controversy for using the N-word on Real Time in the summer. Franken, then a senator, was scheduled to appear on the show the following episode, but canceled because of Maher’s comments.

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