David Jolly fully intends to appear on “Real Time with Bill Maher” Friday night, as do previously scheduled guests Ice Cube and Symone Sanders, the former national press secretary for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
This despite the controversy circling around the comedian, who used the N-word during his show last Friday night, prompting widespread condemnation and calls for HBO to oust him from the gig.
As it stands now, the only previously scheduled guest on the comic’s weekly program who won’t appear is U.S. Sen. Al Franken; Jolly says the Minnesota Democrat is making a mistake blowing off the program.
“Frankly, if Franken had such convictions, then the opportunity was for him to go on the show and to speak to it, not run away and hide from it,” says the former Republican congressman, whose unabashed criticism of President Donald Trump has made him a favorite this year for CNN and MSNBC bookers.
Scheduled to replace Franken is academic and author Michael Eric Dyson. In a statement issued over the weekend, Dyson, who is black, came to Maher’s defense after the comedian used what is perhaps the most toxic word in the English language.
“[Maher] has bravely, and relentlessly, pilloried racism, white privilege, and white indifference to the black plight,” Dyson wrote on Twitter. “In short, he has used his platform to highlight black faces, and amplify black voices, that might otherwise have never been given such a prominent perch to tell their truths.”
The cable network also announced it removed the offensive phrase from “any subsequent airings of the show.”
In the wake of the controversy, some analysts think D.C. lawmakers — who have enjoyed getting a dose of Hollywood cool by appearing on the show — may now think twice about accepting an offer to appear. This year alone, ‘Real Time’ featured politicos like Elizabeth Warren, Darrell Issa and (now most notoriously) Nebraska Sen Ben Sasse, who took some incoming fire for failing to call Maher out for using a racial epithet in replying to Sasse’s invitation to come to Nebraska.
The Hollywood Reporter quoted one public relations professional Tuesday saying that while “commentators will still be interested in the platform, (but) elected officials will be less interested. They have more at stake — they’re associated with the language used on the program.”
Jolly dismisses the idea that if he were still in Congress he’d bow out, a la Franken.
“I’m open to just as much criticism now, just because I speak publicly to hard issues,” he says. “The safest place for a politician to be is silent, and to hide from controversy. That’s not just Franken, that’s the DNA of most politicians.”
Having said that, Jolly admits to having some “trepidation” about doing the show in a way that he didn’t a week ago.
“I did some soul-searching in the days following Friday night,” he adds, “but it wouldn’t be true to my character to shy away from controversy or hard issues.”
Jolly says he has “no idea” what might transpire differently Friday night than the usual formula for the hourlong live program.
“Nobody condones what he said. Certainly I don’t. I’m as curious as the rest of the country in seeing how he handles Friday night. I don’t have any advance knowledge.”
A number of black commentators have said Maher’s comment was offensive, but they don’t think he should be fired. Despite that, there have been many calls for HBO to can him, including one from NPR’s Eric Deggans.
As Deggans wrote earlier this week: “It’s evidence of a pattern — one that HBO now needs to decide whether it wants to continue to be associated with, especially for a channel where 22 percent of its viewership comes from black people.”