There is nothing Bill Maher hates more than people taking comedy too seriously. And that appears to be what Page Six’s Emily Smith has done with a couple of photos taken in 2000 to promote a segment called “Strange Bedfellows” from Bill Maher’s ABC show Politically Incorrect.
The New York Post “exclusive” features the headline, “Newly surfaced pics show Al Franken grabbing Arianna Huffington’s breasts and butt.” But what follows hardly delivers on that promise.
Maher responded in a tweet Monday night, calling the article “so ridic and such an insult to any real victims,” adding, “Low even for you, Post.”
What’s most remarkable about the Post’s article, however, is that Huffington herself rejects any untoward reading of the photos.
“The notion that there was anything inappropriate in this photo shoot is truly absurd,” she said in a statement. “Al and I did a comedic sketch for Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect called ‘Strange Bedfellows,’ in which the whole point, as the name makes clear, was that we were doing political commentary from bed. This shoot was looking back at the sketch, and we were obviously hamming it up for comedic effect.”
“I’ve been great friends with Al and his wife Franni for over 20 years and there has never been anything remotely inappropriate in our interactions,” Huffington added.
Yet Smith, who refers to Franken as “the creepy pol” in the piece following two actual allegations of sexual misconduct against him, also quotes an unnamed source who claims, “Arianna was pushing his hands away. He was groping her. There was some fun attached to it, but she wasn’t enjoying it. She definitely told him to stop and pushed him away.”
Maher’s response, meanwhile, comes just a few days after he defended Franken on his HBO show Real Time Friday night. While he admitted that his “friend” Franken did a “bad thing” that deserves condemnation, Maher added, “What he doesn’t deserve is to be lumped in with Roy Moore, or Kevin Spacey, or Harvey Weinstein, or Donald Trump.”
Instead, Maher proposed a new “#MeToo campaign” for those who “can tell two unlike things apart.”
UPDATE: On Tuesday morning, Huffington posted an additional response to the story on Twitter, writing, “I thought the point of this moment was to believe women’s accounts of their own experiences.”