On Friday night, Bill Maher began the latest edition of Real Time by taking a knee.
“Before we start the show, let’s all take a knee, ladies and gentlemen,” Maher announced to his studio audience, before going down on one knee. It was, truth be told, a rather cringeworthy display of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, a free agent NFL quarterback who began kneeling during the National Anthem to protest systemic racism and police brutality against African-Americans (and was called a “son of a bitch” by President Trump for this peaceful act of protest.)
It seemed a bit odd coming from a man who was recently upbraided for uttering the N-word on his HBO show, but Maher has always been a staunch defender of the First Amendment, in sickness and in health. President Trump, on the other hand, once sued Maher for $5 million for joking that he was the “spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan,” and only appears to champion the First Amendment when it’s beneficial to him.
The First Amendment also protects hate speech, and during the panel session of Real Time, Maher took it upon himself to defend a neo-Nazi troll who last week traveled around Seattle donning a red Nazi armband, was tracked down on social media, and then punched out by an anti-fascist on camera.
“When people saw him there on the bus, it went around the internet and some Good Samaritan—according to some people—went out and punched him out, and it got a lot of raves by liberals. And liberals should not be raving about this. We have a First Amendment. I don’t like Nazis either—I rooted against them on Hogan’s Heroes—but we have to go by principles and not feelings. That’s what the other side does. You can’t just punch Nazis,” argued Maher.
“We don’t believe in the Supreme Court?” he continued. “The Supreme Court said [Nazis] could march in Skokie, and we just saw they were allowed to march [in Charlottesville]. This is what the First Amendment says. Even if something is odious, this is America, you’re allowed to express it. If you throw the principle out the window and just say it’s how I feel, then you’re just as bad as them.”
Panelist Tom Morello, guitarist of Rage Against the Machine and spinoff group Prophets of Rage, took issue with Maher’s remarkable feat of false equivalence, firing back, “Just because I want Nazis to be punched does not make me as bad as people who want to throw all Jewish people into ovens.”
What Maher conveniently left out during his First Amendment crusade: the Seattle-area Nazi was punched out after reportedly acting belligerent, yelling at the top of his lungs at a crowd of protesters, and then calling a man an “ape” and throwing a banana at him.