In the week since Bill Maher casually dropped a racial slur on his show in a segment with Republican Senator Ben Sasse, the HBO host became the subject of intense criticism. Amid calls for a boycott, and even to have him fired, Maher confronted the issue head-on this week.
He invited Ice Cube, a member of the hip-hop group N.W.A., onto his show as a guest. The frontman and actor duly laid into the embattled host.
— Bill Maher (@billmaher) June 10, 2017
“My thing is this, and you know, I’m cool with you,” Ice Cube said. “I like your show, to be honest. I just wanna know two questions. What made you think it was cool to say that? That’s one question.”
“You know, I just explained there was no thought put into it. Obviously I was telling Dr. Dyson, comedians, they react. And it was wrong. And I apologize. And you know, more than that I can’t do.”
Ice Cube accepted Maher’s apology as the crowd cheered the exchange. Ice Cube, however, went on to explain, deftly and articulately, why Maher’s controversial comment last week was so inappropriate.
“I accept your apology. But I still think we need to get to the root of the psyche. Because I think there’s a lot of guys out there who cross the line because they a little too familiar—or they think they too familiar—or its guys that, you know, might have a black girlfriend or two who made them some Kool-Aid every now and then, and they think they can cross the line. And they can’t. It’s a word that has been used against us; it’s like a knife, man. And you can use it as a weapon, or you can use it as a tool. It’s been used as a weapon against us by white people, and we’re not gonna let that happen again by nobody, because it’s not cool. Now, I know you heard [it], it’s in the lexicon and everybody’s talkin’, but that’s our word now. That’s our word now. And you can’t have it back. I know they’re tryin’ to get it back.”
While Maher’s remark was wholly inappropriate, Ice Cube summed it up perfectly. “I’m tellin’ you: I like your show and I like you. But I think this is a teachable moment, not just to you but to the people who are watching right now.”
And Maher, nearly at a loss for words, seemed to understand.
Brian Tyler Cohen is a political writer, actor, and comedy sketch director. He graduated from Lehigh University with a dual degree in English and Business. He currently lives in Los Angeles.