WASHINGTON – Minnesota Sen. Al Franken has cancelled his upcoming appearance on “Real Time” following controversy over host Bill Maher’s use of a racial slur on-air.
A spokesperson for Franken confirmed the decision to cancel the appearance in a statement to the Huffington Post.
“Senator Franken believes that what Bill Maher said was inappropriate and offensive, which is why he made the decision not to appear on the next episode of ‘Real Time.’ He was glad to see Bill, who the Senator considers to be a good friend, apologize and express sincere regret for his comment,” the statement said.
Maher found himself in hot water last week after joking he was a “house n—-r” in a segment with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) during the Friday night episode of the HBO show. The comment left many people outraged, some calling for HBO to cancel Maher’s show. Maher later apologized, saying he regretted using the “offensive” word.
“Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I’m up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn’t have said on my live show,” Maher said Saturday through a spokesperson. “Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry.”
An HBO company spokesperson said in a statement, “Bill Maher’s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless. We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.”
Sasse has also received criticism for his reaction to Maher’s comment. Symone Sanders, an activist and former national press secretary for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, is set to appear on Friday’s episode that Franken backed out of. In an email to the Huffington Post, Sanders called out Sasse’s reaction to the comment.
“I thought Maher’s comment, Ben Sasse’s reaction and the crowd’s applause were all equally distasteful, inappropriate and offensive,” she said. “I am glad Maher too recognized as such and issued an apology.
Sasse has apologized for the incident. In a series of tweets, Sasse said he regrets not stopping Maher in the moment and making him address the comment.
“I’m a 1st Amendment absolutist. Comedians get latitude to cross hard lines. But free speech comes with a responsibility to speak up when folks use that word. Me just cringing last night wasn’t good enough. Here’s what I wish I’d been quick enough to say in the moment: ‘Hold up, why would you think it’s OK to use that word?’ The history of the n-word is an attack on universal human dignity. It’s, therefore, an attack on the American Creed. Don’t use it,'” Sasse wrote on Twitter.