It was, even by 2017 standards, an unmitigated disaster.
Last Friday, Bill Maher welcomed alt-right fellow traveler Milo Yiannopoulos on his late-night program Real Time. The controversial booking prompted panelist Jeremy Scahill to drop out, with the journalist alleging that granting the racist cartoon character a platform like HBO would “legitimize his hateful agenda.”
Yiannopoulos, for the blissfully unaware, is a 32-year-old British 4chan troll who, under the alias “Milo Andreas Wagner,” flirted with neo-Nazism—donning an iron cross necklace and posing proudly with Hitler tomes—before failing out of the UK tech industry, latching on to the Gamergate movement, and becoming a “technology” editor for the far-right website Breitbart, where he regularly espoused transphobic, misogynistic, and xenophobic views. He was booted from Twitter for spearheading a racist online harassment campaign against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones, and has been known to harass and intimidate individual trans students during his popular college speaking gigs. This week, Yiannopoulos, who is openly gay, was booted from CPAC, forced to resign from Breitbart, and lost his book deal after audio and video emerged of him defending hebephilia.
“You’re welcome,” said Maher, taking credit for Yiannopoulos’s downfall in an interview with The New York Times for featuring him on his program. “What I think people saw was an emotionally needy Ann Coulter wannabe, trying to make a buck off of the left’s propensity for outrage. And by the end of the weekend, by dinnertime Monday, he’s dropped as a speaker at CPAC. Then he’s dropped by Breitbart, and his book deal falls through. As I say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Maher had nothing to do with the backlash against Yiannopoulos. It was the announcement of his CPAC speaking gig that triggered a shadowy conservative group called The Reagan Battalion to dig up the damning Yiannopoulos footage. Maher, on the other hand, handled Milo with kid gloves on Real Time, mostly approving of the troll’s bigoted declarations whilst lobbing him softballs. And during the Overtime segment, when Yiannopoulos stated, “I think women and girls should be protected from having men who are confused about their sexual identities from their bathrooms,” Maher agreed, responding, “That’s not unreasonable.” Later, Maher disgustingly described the trans bathroom debate as “weirdos peeing.”
This week, President Trump, under pressure from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, “rescinded protections for transgender students that had allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity,” according to The New York Times. The protections were put in place under the Obama administration.
So did Maher offer a mea culpa on this Friday’s Real Time for agreeing with Yiannopoulos? No. Instead, the political satirist made a bunch of transphobic cracks about the bathroom ruling—one that will discriminate against children across the country.
“This was the first relatively slow news week we’ve had in the Trump era. We’re back to talking about who can pee in what bathroom. I consider that a small victory,” joked Maher during his monologue.
“Under Obama, of course, he made an order that said transgender students could pee where they wanted. Trump, this week, rescinded,” Maher continued. “Trump believes men shouldn’t be in the same room with women peeing unless you’re paying for it.”
After those lame “jokes,” Maher aimed his ire at Caitlyn Jenner, a Trump supporter who criticized the trans bathroom ruling in a video posted online, calling it a “disaster.” “It looks like he’s lost Caitlyn Jenner on this issue. Yeah, she’s very mad at him. Of course, she’s a transgender Republican,” said Maher. “You know, I don’t really give a crap where you crap, and I fully support the LGBLTAEOU and sometimes Y movement, but a transgender Republican? That’s just weird.”
“What [Jenner] said was, ‘President Trump, from one Republican to another, this is a disaster.’ I love the self-centeredness of this—where she draws the line. You know, Bruce Jenner was an idiot. Adding tits didn’t make him a genius,” added Maher, before mimicking Jenner: “Trump’s stormtroopers are pulling 16-year-old Mexican kids out of classrooms to send them to Mexico. That’s OK. But mess with my right to pee? Shame on you, sir!”
The trans bathroom debate—and any discrimination against the trans community—is no laughing matter. There are approximately 1.4 million transgender people in the U.S., and they are subject to terrible conditions. According to the U.S. government’s Office for Victims of Crime, “One in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives. Some reports estimate that transgender survivors may experience rates of sexual assault up to 66 percent, often coupled with physical assaults or abuse. This indicates that the majority of transgender individuals are living with the aftermath of trauma and the fear of possible repeat victimization.” Furthermore, the homicide rate is alarmingly high for transgender people.
When Maher made his “right to pee” joke, the audience fell completely silent. “Laugh,” Maher requested of them.
Only a few obliged.