Bill Maher has a complicated history with 9/11.
On September 17, 2001, six days after two hijacked planes struck the Twin Towers, killing 2,606 people, Maher went on his ABC talk show Politically Incorrect and challenged then-President George W. Bush, who claimed that the terrorist hijackers were “cowards.”
“We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away,” said Maher. “That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building. Say what you want about it. Not cowardly.”
Several big-name advertisers pulled out of the show over the comments, and it was canceled shortly thereafter. Then, in 2003, Maher started his HBO series Real Time with Bill Maher, which has proved to be wildly successful to this day. He’s since apologized for his comments, and has been a staunch defender of both the U.S. military as well as first responders. Once, in one of the show’s more famous moments, he booted several rowdy 9/11 truthers from his crowd.
Well, on Sunday’s edition of Real Time, Maher welcomed retired four-star general and former NSA director Michael Hayden onto the program. Maher seemed to be a strong admirer of Hayden, as the comedian has stated in the past that he’s in favor of government surveillance on citizens in the name of national security. So naturally, the issue of Apple and the FBI came up, with the technology company refusing to create a backdoor to unlock an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters, arguing that it both creates a disturbing precedent vis-à-vis government power and interference, and that the powers that be may use the workaround to crack others’ iPhones with impunity.
“Let’s talk about that big applause for Apple,” said a sarcastic Maher. “I think people in this country are spoiled, I think they’re uninformed, I don’t think they really know what the threats are out there. I think partly you’re a victim of your own success: 9/11 was pretty horrible, but compared to what happens in the rest of the world often, we’ve gotten away pretty easy. I don’t think people really think about the fact that there are a lot of people looking for nuclear weapons—that they would use them right here in this country—and that having your pictures safe wouldn’t really stack up to being killed by a nuclear event here in Los Angeles or any other major city.”
Maher also took the time to roast the GOP presidential candidates’ recent debate, which turned into a juvenile dick-measuring contest, with frontrunners Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio whining over each other.
“Even for them, this is a new low,” said Maher. “Presidential? They were menopausal! Trump and Rubio are fighting today about which one wears more makeup. The Real Housewives are going, ‘Please guys, a little dignity.’” He added, “If you missed this debate, it kind of looked like a really disgusting Cuban sandwich: it was Rubio on one side, and Cruz on the other, and a fat slab of cheesy ham [Trump] in the middle.”
And Maher, who’s openly admitted he’s a Bernie Sanders supporter—and has been sued for $5 million by Trump—said that he does envision one scenario where the tiny-fingered real estate mogul could take the White House.
“I think the election will hinge on whether there’s another terrorist attack in this country,” said Maher. “I think if there is, especially close to the election, it is President Trump.” “America,” he continued, ‘is known to shit its pants.”