On Friday night, Bill Maher returned to his HBO show Real Time and offered solidarity with protesters during his monologue, conceding that the police had clearly gone too far not only when it comes to brutalizing black bodies but their aggressive, violent, escalatory tactics against protesters.
Later, the political satirist took issue with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and his outrageous op-ed in The New York Times effectively calling for the president to declare war on protesting civilians by sending in the military to strike them down. The piece, surely part of a 14-year vendetta that the conservative lawmaker has held against the Times, received widespread backlash from not only the public but Times staffers, who (rightfully) felt it endangered the lives of black reporters in the field.
“Let me quote Tom Cotton. He’s a senator, he went to Harvard, he’s a real person. He said, ‘Let’s see how tough these antifa terrorists’—they’re terrorists now—‘are when facing the 101st Airborne.’ He’s running the 101st Airborne out there as a talking point!” exclaimed Maher. “Matt Gaetz, you know this guy? That congressman from Florida who always looks like he’s saying, ‘Eat it, nerd!’ He says, ‘Now that we can clearly see antifa as terrorists, can we hunt them down like we do those in the Middle East.’”
Yes, these Republican politicians believe that antifa—which stands for “anti-fascist,” and is responsible for a fraction of the deaths (if any) of, say, white nationalists, who have not been designated “as terrorists”—is some sort of leaderless, organized movement that must be stopped (it’s not).
“It’s really important that we not fall into the trap, that maybe certain sides are setting for us, that there is a widespread, organized attack on America going on. The reality Bill is, sometimes, a guy throwing a brick through a window is just a guy throwing a brick through a window,” Frank Figliuzzi, the FBI’s former assistant director for counterintelligence told Maher, adding, “There are serious groups intent on violence, discord, and even civil war out there… but so far… it’s the right wing that seems to be taking the lead on the violence and the weapons.”
Maher also expressed worry that Sen. Cotton may have caught the attention and ear of Trump. “What’s to stop Trump from going, ‘My new Secretary of Defense is Tom Cotton! Because I already know that he’s on the page of using the 101st Airborne!’ He’s a senator from America who wants to use American military people to fire on American citizens. He said so, anyway, because antifa is this new enemy. Last week, it was the post office.”
The comic added, “I don’t even know if [antifa’s] a real thing.”