March 20, 2012 / Safety

ABC’s Jake Tapper Gives Bill Maher a Chance To Defend Himself – To Little Avail


The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.

Jake Tapper recently spoke with Bill Maher, offering him a chance to set the record straight about the misogynistic comments he often directs at women.  Tapper noted that conservatives are complaining that Rush Limbaugh should not be the only one singled out for his vile words regarding Sandra Fluke when liberal commentators get away with demeaning conservative women all the time.  But Tapper’s premise is incorrect on its face.  Liberal men also make disgusting comments about liberal women.  Hillary Clinton can attest to that point.  Jake Tapper well knows this.  He ran a column on the same in 2008, and yet he too seems to want to bury that knowledge.

In his defensive comments, Maher repeatedly plays the “I’m just a comedian pushing the envelope” card.  He compares himself to George Carlin, but I would suggest he neither possesses the genius with language nor the ability to formulate sophisticated social commentary the way Carlin did.  Bill Maher is good at trashing women he doesn’t like in the most sexist, demeaning terms possible.  On that score, he has no peer.

Maher also makes the argument that when Rush Limbaugh called Ms. Fluke a “slut,” he went after a private citizen, and that was wrong.  However, Maher implies that going after a public female figure with sexist language is entirely permissible.  Maher’s statement is as nonsensical as it is indefensible.  This implies that because a woman is a public figure you should be able to call her a cunt, a twat, a bubblehead, a witch, a bitch, a whore, a slut, or say that she should be “splayed out on the hood of a car.”  In re Sarah Palin, he says that, as a politician, ‘she gives as good as she gets’ in the insult department.  I would have to disagree.  She has never gone after the children of anyone’s family, nor does she find the world’s filthiest names to describe her attackers.  “Lamestream media” is no comparison to what she and her daughters have had to endure.

According to Maher’s logic – it is okay for MSNBC’s David Shuster to call Hillary Clinton a pimp and infer that her daughter is a whore; or for Alex Castellanos on CNN to call Hillary a “bitch,” and it is okay for Maher to call Palin a “cunt” and a “dumb twat” but it is not okay to say that about a private person.  I would ask Mr. Maher how many television viewers, who likewise have no respect for women, would draw the line at this public vs. private citizen rationale?  If you demean one woman you demean them all.

Men like Maher, Shuster, Olbermann, Cafferty, Matthews, Louis CK, and Taibbi all set an example with their behavior and tacitly grant permission for everyone else to jump on the sexist bandwagon.

Excusing himself for the defamation of female public figures also ignores the fact that other women who support Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Elizabeth Warren, Martha Coakley, Nikky Haley, or Kirsten Gillibrand are by extension being insulted and intimidated by vile and violent rhetoric toward these women.   During the 2008 election cycle, for example, pundits, some newscasters, and many comics not only demeaned both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, but by their horrid jibes against them, also made clear that anyone else should be ashamed to support them.  Liberal men accused women of “vagina voting” if they chose Hillary – isn’t that going after a whole group of private citizens?

Maher says “he lets his audience be his guide” as to when he has gone too far, but by then the damage is already done.  And since there are enough people in this country who thrill at the use of misogynist rhetoric, a man with a bully pulpit such as Maher would do well to set an example, not to follow, or pander to, the lowest common denominator.

He refers to himself as a “comedian,” yet his HBO show is peppered with politicians, commentators and other political operatives.  He debates with them as if he is on a par with them; offering his services as a political commentator on other news programs.  For him to hide behind the safety veil of “but I’m just a comedian” whenever he gets into trouble for his sexist commentary is not cutting it.

Maher called comedy the “final frontier of free speech” and also refers to “context.”  In which context is it appropriate to refer to a mother, wife, sister, or daughter as a whore or a cunt?  This is hate speech.  I apologize for spelling out the “c” word continuously but only when we see the shock of it on the page over and over will we finally figure out that this is not okay.

No one is telling Maher to stop criticizing women with whom he disagrees, but can’t he summon the intelligence to do so in a way that does not encourage disrespect, and a demeaning image or objectification of women?  The amount of violence toward women in  this country and around the world is a clear indicator of the relationship between vile words and violent actions.

What if a female comedian used the “N” word to describe a male politician, or offered a demeaning slur to a gay man – would she still be on the air?  Why are “cunt,” “bitch,” “whore” and “twat” considered free speech, whereas slurs against people of color or gay persons considered hate speech?   I can’t wait to hear the moral relativism on that one.   The ‘public vs. private’ citizen excuse in those cases would be useless, I can assure you.

Maher, like Limbaugh and any others on the news or off, who use this kind of disrespectful rhetoric against women can only have the intention to intimidate, to objectify and to silence.  A man who respects women does not speak about them using these terms – in any context.

Maher told Tapper he was a “potty mouth, not a misogynist.”  My final question to Mr. Maher:  What word could he be called on a daily basis that would hit so hard in the solar plexus that he would comprehend the cost of being debased as so many women have been? What would get the message across and does such an equivalent even exist?

Until he understands what it feels like to be on the receiving end of this constant vile treatment, or witnesses someone about whom he cares deeply be treated to the same, I doubt we will penetrate the façade of his vapid excuse making.

Anita Finlay is the author of the book, DIRTY WORDS ON CLEAN SKIN: Sexism and Sabotage, a Hillary Supporter’s Rude Awakening, which will be released in April…

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  • L. Anselmi

    Wow! You go Anita!! Your point is exactly right. This not just about words. The words wouldn’t matter if violence and the threat of violence wasn’t a part of every woman’s life.

  • Marille

    Anita, what a great summary of sexism we had to endure over the last 4 years. you ask about words which would stop his sexism. well there is the British “pr*ck”, but I doubt it would have any effect on him. Besides the thought of speaking in an equivalent language to Maher just makes me sick. what I find of all these male examples of sexism and Maher topping them all, is, that they are all extremely unappealing looking, the opposite of “sexy”. I cannot imagine any female wanting to be close to them. So maybe, they use the aggressive violent sexist language to appear physically potent to their pears. and that brings us to why are jokes on women whatever language so acceptable to the common man.

    by the way I can’t wait to read your book.

  • L. Anselmi

    Just wanted to amend my earlier comment.

    The VILE words wouldn’t matter SO MUCH if violence and the threat of violence wasn’t a part of every woman AND GIRLS life.

    I can’t wait to read “Dirty Words on Clean Skin”!

  • Kathleen Wynne

    Fantastic article, Ani!

    I can’t wait for your book to come out so that I can buy one for me and several for friends of mine who supported obama and swore that there was no sexism pointed at Hillary during the primary.

    I want them to read it and then defend the actions of obama and his supporters, the MSM and those vitrolic pundits, Matthews, Olbermann, Schultz, (and yes, Maher) who attacked Hillary every day in the most misogynistic way. If they can defend this behavior and pretend it didn’t happen, then the only explanation will be that without cognitive dissonance, sexism would not still be considered acceptable in our so-called “evolved” society.

  • Bes

    Amen! The concept that it is a specific word that is offensive is just idiotic. What is offensive regarding Limbaugh/Maher is the fact that they try to degrade any woman who expresses her self politically to keep women from gaining political power. You can substitute hooha for cunt and their behaviors are just as offensive.

    Also their excuse making is pathetic. As a Mother I hear excuses often. I do give points and consideration for inventive or creative excuses, I can’t help myself. But I know an excuse when I hear one and Limbaugh/Maher’s excuse making is uninspired. Summer is coming on and the economy still sucks, perhaps Limbaugh/Maher and the Democrat party could help stimulate the economy and hire some teenagers to come up with some creative excuses, if they plan to continue with their pathetic behavior.

  • Anita Finlay

    Thank you all for your support… I am excited for you to read my book as well — it provides an unassailable bible of the media’s destructive tactics. It still shocks me to see how many media blowhards claim to be progressive and yet have no problem justifying misogynistic behavior.

    They also pretend there is no link between vile and violence — we know that is not true. If you think of someone as beneath you, then clearly you don’t have to treat them as well as you would treat yourself.

  • Bes

    Well “progressives” claim their is no link between vile and violence regarding degrading women. If you are talking about degrading Jews, persons of color or Gays then “progressives” totally agree their is a link between vile and violence.

  • trixta

    Can’t wait for your book, Ani. Your article is spot on!! Thank you for putting it all together.

  • inconsiderable wretch

    Ani: Outstanding article! Cogent reasoning, beautiful writing; telling it like it is. Thanks! Thanks also for other articles and comments you’ve written in the past. I look forward to reading your book.

  • samsmom

    Often when men or boys want to demean and degrade each other, they use words that “feminize” each other. They call each other names like “pussy”. When the football coach wants to motivate the members of his team, he says they’re playing like “little girls”. In a study done on the adolescent males I went to college with, they were asked if they couldn’t be a white male and had to choose between waking up tomorrow morning black, disabled, or female, which would they choose? A majority ranked their choices in that order. The misogyny runs very deep. We need it to be a hate crime, and we need to prosecute it.

  • Susan

    Maher is a coward. He’s terrified of women so he uses his bully pulpit to diminish them. He had an opportunity for self-reflection during the course of this incident but he has no more insight into his own fear and loathing of women than Rush does.

  • Juliette


    As far as degrading Jews, porgressives have been doing alot of that lately as well. While the hypocrats champion their cause celebre- “bullying, they try to convince US that the majority of bullying going on is of young gay people, but the statistics show more students are bullied for being Jewish than for any other reason. With hostile words like the ones from Helen Thomas’ mouth to the -blame the Jews, OWS parasites things are getting pretty creepy in leftist land. And when it comes to bullying women they take the Gold Medal.

  • Juliette

    There is simply no accounbtability for the vile misogynic left. Bill Maher has a faithful following of leftist hypsters who never grow up and think that his kind of “humor” is cool. He is considered an intellectual giant among very many Obama supporters and that should tell us something.
    How soon the damocrats forget that Senator chick Shummer called a flight attendant a bitch for doing her job and asking him to turn off his blackberry. And know they are claiming the republicans are waging a war on women because most of us don’t want to have to purchase expensive health insurance plans that cover abortions and birth control pills (some of which are used to abort a fetus). I don’t think their attempts at deceiving the American people will work mush longer. The culture of extreem misogyny we are living in today is laftist and Pagan through and through

  • Juliette

    chick Shummer was a typo, but hey it might make a good nick name for Chuck.

  • Anita Finlay

    “There is simply no accounbtability for the vile misogynic left. Bill Maher has a faithful following of leftist hypsters who never grow up and think that his kind of “humor” is cool. He is considered an intellectual giant among very many Obama supporters and that should tell us something.”

    Right you are, Juliette. I have just such an acquaintance. He thinks Maher is brilliant. It is depressing that he is willing to wear such big blinders on behalf of this man. Since Maher champions some of the issues this man believes in, he is willing to throw women under the bus and pretend no such thing is happening. I must tell you, I don’t understand it.

  • Juliette


    ‘Hope you will being selling signed copies of your book, I’d like one. ‘Wishing you great sucess!

  • Juliette

    Yes Anita
    I feel your pain. I call these “men” man boys and there are way to many of them especially in cities like Philly and N.Y.. It makes me sick to be around these fools especially when “progressive women” sit and listen like a bunch of stepford wives.
    Remember when Alex Castellano said some women are bitches, on CNN when covering the democrat primary 2008. Both Donna Brazil and Gloria Borgia sat beside him and said not a word in defence of women. That was an eye opening experience and one of many for me. It would be nice to see a little back bone among “liberal” women. I have seen much more courage among the conservative females leaders of our day.

    “I tell you I don’t understamd it”
    They are insecure and want to be seen as cool anita. Thats what is boils down to.

  • Anita Finlay

    Juliette — do you by any chance have a link to Castellanos with Brazille and Borger sitting beside him? I knew of, and covered his behavior, but had no idea they were sitting on the panel when he made these comments. Then again, Borger in particular bashed Hillary at every opportunity as I recall…

    (and thank you for your support!!) 🙂

  • Great post, Anita. You are so right – it doesn’t matter if one is a public or private person – this kind of name calling toward women is unacceptable no matter WHO it is.

    And Maher is no George Carlin – not even close.

    Can’t wait for the book! Like Kathleen, I intend to buy a bunch of them! 🙂

  • Bes

    “And know they are claiming the republicans are waging a war on women because most of us don’t want to have to purchase expensive health insurance plans that cover abortions and birth control pills (some of which are used to abort a fetus)”

    No one needs the government to tell them what sort of healthcare they need to pay for. For many young women birth control is their ONLY health care expense. So are they supposed to be taxed to pay their share of Viagra and orthopedic surgeon expenses they don’t need and then also be expected to pay for their birth control on their own dime? That is forcing young women who earn less money for the same work to subsidize the behavior of irresponsible men with their tax dollars and then continue to pay for their own health care expenses. Birth Control is cheap (and far cheaper than paying for the birth and healthcare of an unwanted child) compared to most of the fluff that is covered in health care and it is not what makes insurance expensive.

  • Kathleen Wyanne


    You said, “Since Maher champions some of the issues this man believes in, he is willing to throw women under the bus and pretend no such thing is happening. I must tell you, I don’t understand it.”

    I believe the reason is men know they have the lion’s share of power and that women still feel that they cannot unite and take them on in a direct and definitive way…the male response will be viscerol –note the growing violence against women on every level — which I believe is the patriarchy’s knee jerk response to reports that more women attend, excel and graducate from college than men do, that more and more women are speaking out against the mysogyny and are not accepting lame excuses such as “he’s a comedian”…you know, the kinds of excuses that women used to let pass without argument.

    When women finally realize that men will only come to respect them when they respect themselves enough to unite and stand together under the same umbrella, regardless of race, religion, political affiliation or class and vote qualified women into political power. It’s all about POWER. Power is what men understand and respect, which is why they guard it so jealously from women and set up all kinds of double standards and road blocks, preventing women from ever obtaining an equal share. Yes, men are terrified of women. I believe they are because they honestly believe should women ever obtain equal power with them, that they will abuse their power against men like men have done against women since the beginning of time.

    What men have yet to come to understand about the other half of the human race is that WE ARE NOT THE ENEMY and should stop treating us as such. Imagine how much better the lives of all people would be if men could understand this one true thing about women. The question is why haven’t they and what will it take to get them to do so? I believe it will come only when women have equal power and can show them how wrong they’ve been about us.

  • ryan

    There is no excuse for this mans words or his form of humor. It’s hate speech pure and simple!

  • Susan

    Juliette, you seem to be suggesting that conservatives do police their community which is a mind-boggling claim, to say the least. Only one somewhat well-known conservative woman called out Rush for his disgusting orgy of misogyny and that was Carly Fiorina. Where was Palin, Bachmann or any man except for David Frum who has been shunned by the GOP base for criticizing the extremists who have taken over the GOP? No one has said a word about the Georgia GOP state representative who compared pregnant women to pigs and cows or the the GOP state representative in Idaho who suggested a few days ago that women aren’t smart enough to know when they’ve really been raped. Then, there was Boehner’s bill that sought to limit the definition of rape to require that a woman actually be physically assaulted, eliminating the threat of death or physical harm to themselves or others, the use of date rape drugs, date rape and statutory rape as actions which, if taken to compel a woman to submit to sexual conduct as acts of rape. The litany of GOP insults to women is endless. Of course, the left is also filled with misogynists but, frankly, your repeated condemnations of liberals while ignoring conservative misogyny is tiresome.

    Anita, if you google Jeffrey Toobin + Hillary + bitch, the clip will come up. I watched it just recently. I remember watching at the time when Castellanos said that Hillary was a bitch. I was most angry at Donna Brazile, a DNC official, whose bias for Obama was obvious even though she continued to claim to be neutral as she continued to make a bundle as a pundit on CNN. I turned off CNN that day and have not watched it since.

  • Anita Finlay

    Thanks, Susan. I will do so. It was shocking how many women like Brazile and Borger claim to be progressives and either sat silent or, like Borger, joined in the slugfest against her. As to Brazile, she coy throughout the contest, saying “I’m not undecided, just undeclared.” Do tell…

  • Juliette


    Here is the link. Notice that Borger slightly thows her head back but can’t find the courage to call out this pig. Brazil has no reaction at all. I guess she is used to that kind of language.

  • Deedra

    Anita, I read your article and I have to tell you, it is moving and covers all grounds. I, too, have been very upset for Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and others whom have been verbally abused by t.v./radio personalities. unfortunately, people like Donna Brazille will never get offended for a woman who they do not agree with politically.

    One thing comes to mind, and that is, exactly what type of woman marries someone like Bill Maher?

    Again, your article is great.

  • mitzi morris

    Maher and all the other media,entertainment,political,etc men would revolt if they were referred to by the size of their penis, their balding hair,their chubby bellies,the size of their booties or lack thereof. Oh yes, and their height. Not to mention their weakness in leadership skills that often results in their inability to show women the same respect that men feel entitled to.
    Putting men down by going for their crotch is something they don’t have to suffer.

    Maher is particularly offensive because he defends his position so aggressively and lamely as though it’s the purview of comics to insult women in whatever way they wish and get away with it ’cause they’re “comics”.And he separates public and private women. In fact are women are to “pay” for being public? How unbelievable!

    The old boys club is suffused with the subtext of blatant racism designed to keep women from succeeding and competing. We are still considered The Second Sex
    and should object through all means possible. Boycot advertisers, speak out, demonstrate, educate.

    The old boys club want the power all to themselves, and what could be better than paying women less and continually marginalizing them to insure that they fail at progressing and getting onto their turf?

    In the 21st Century we are still not guaranteed what our Constitution provides in that we are entitled to Equal Protection and the Right to Privacy. The 14th amendment has a bit to say, yet we tolerate the insults and the onslaughts without loudly objecting and standing for our rights.

    If we dont do it, no one else will. Dirty Words On Clean Skin is wonderfully clear on these issues and should just be the beginning. A great read and a great and important book.

  • mitzi morris

    What kind of wowan would marry Bill Maher? An unsure
    woman of small ego whose been indocrinated to please men sexually as part of her idendity and takes a subservient role in all matters. Catering to Maher’s ego would be her full time job until he tired of her and found another willing serf.

    To my knowledge he’s never been married which is great as his intolerably arrogant attitude towards women and his conviction that they are lesser than he [and all men] is clear at all times.

    I cannot imagine Maher tolerating a relationship of any kind with a woman based on respect and tolerance.

    “Arm candy” and sex from a gal who won’t be controversial about anything seems to me to be what he wants in female company.