Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s Real Time, harbors controversial views concerning sexual harassment. He’s repeatedly defended Al Franken, Bill Clinton, and a slew of other alleged sexual predators, seemingly valuing their liberal political clout over the lives of their less powerful accusers.
And on Friday night, returning after a near two-month hiatus, Maher returned to his late-night show and vehemently defended Bernie Sanders and his presidential campaign from allegations of systemic sexual harassment, as revealed in an eye-opening New York Times investigation, and appeared to minimize sexual-harassment allegations detailed in the piece.
“Let me ask a question about the Democrats,” said Maher. “Bernie Sanders got into some trouble the last couple of weeks because apparently there was sexual harassment that was reported on his campaign. They asked him about this, and he apologized. They asked if he was aware of it, and he said, ‘I was a little busy running around the country trying to make the case.’ Which I had no problem with. That’s right. Just like Hillary wasn’t responsible for Benghazi, she was the Secretary of State, it’s not [Sanders’] responsibility to know everything that goes on, and it didn’t seem like it was the worst kind of sexual harassment.”
Yes, you heard that right: It didn’t seem like it was the worst kind of sexual harassment.
“I don’t know what went on in that campaign, but if the Democrats are going to keep killing their own—Al Franken, Eliot Spitzer, Gore didn’t support Clinton through the blowjob horror—I don’t know where it ends,” Maher added.
I’m honestly not sure what’s worse, to be honest—referring to the sexual harassment that women say they suffered on the Sanders campaign as not “the worst kind” or referring to the president of the United States preying on his young intern as “the blowjob horror.”
Either way, Catherine Rampell, a Real Time panelist and op-ed columnist for the Washington Post, was quick to correct Maher on his ridiculous claim that “it didn’t seem like it was the worst kind of sexual harassment.”
“Look, I don’t think Bernie is responsible for every bad actor in his campaign but it wasn’t just one bad actor. I think we should make that clear,” she explained.
Rampell is right. The New York Times piece detailed multiple accounts of alleged sexual harassment within the Sanders campaign—and not just that, but when the women reported the incidents, they say their claims were brushed aside (and in one case, laughed at).
“I read that story too. What I read was, one of the females on the campaign said a guy got a little out of line—I guess he took the signals wrong—and asked if he could touch her,” Maher offered, completely misinterpreting just one of the allegations in the piece.
“What signals, Bill? There was no suggestion that she signaled him. That’s a bad thing to say,” panelist Barney Frank chimed in.
“I didn’t say that she signaled him,” fired back an angry Maher.
“Well, who signaled him? The railroad?” cracked Frank.
This set Maher off: “When people are flirting—OK, have we gone completely mad that everybody has to flirt or make a move in the exact right way or you’re a monster? He touched her hair, which is the bottom line of what I read. And of course, if someone touches you in any way and you don’t want it, that is wrong, but is it worth destroying Bernie Sanders over? And what about just saying, hey, get your fuckin’ hand out of my hair?!”
In The New York Times’ story, Giulianna Di Lauro, a Latino outreach strategist for the Sanders campaign, said that a Sanders campaign surrogate asked if he could touch her “beautiful curly hair” during a car ride. She said she consented, but that “he ran his hand through her hair in a ‘sexual way’ and continued to grab, touch and ‘push my boundaries’ for the rest of the day.”
And, according to the Times, “When she reported the incident to Bill Velazquez, a manager on the Latino outreach team, he told her, ‘I bet you would have liked it if he were younger,’ according to her account and another woman who witnessed the exchange. Then he laughed.”
So he didn’t just “touch her hair,” Bill, this wasn’t “flirting,” and it was one of many incidents of alleged sexual harassment within the Sanders campaign.