On an episode of Bill Maher’s talk show last June, the provocative host of Real Time with Bill Maher “jokingly” referred to himself as a “house n****r.”
Of course, the remarks received a barrage of criticism and social media pushback.
Bill Maher followed up with an apology and even hosted segment on his show to discuss the backlash, where Ice Cube so effortlessly explained to him (as if he didn’t already know this) why he shouldn’t use the n-word— ever.
And now Shonitria Anthony, a woman who claims she was fired for speaking out about Bill Maher’s use of the n-word, is suing.
Anthony, an employee at the media startup ATTN: (Bill Maher is an investor), claims she was fired for speaking up about the lack of response by her employer to Maher’s racist comments.
According to her lawsuit, filed in the L.A. Supreme Court, Anthony asked the company to hold a meeting for staff and management to discuss the effects Bill Maher’s comments were having within the ATTN office. According to the documents, it appears that the meeting never took place. Anthony also claims that she was alienated and silenced by both management and peers at the company.
Two months later Anthony asserts that she was terminated under the false pretenses of a layoff. Her lawsuit cites discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination and defamation. She is also looking to collect damages for mental and emotional distress, lost wages, and punitive damages.
ATTN: has publicly responded to Anthony’s claims. “This claim is without merit and the company will defend itself in due course,” reads the statement according to THR. “This employee was part of a reduction in staff related to a change in ATTN:’s business strategy. ATTN: has always used its platform to condemn discrimination and will continue to do so.” They have also stated that the company does not lack diversity within their upper management.
Inside the Bill Maher controversy
Bill Maher set off a social media firestorm of criticism on his June 2 show.
The comedian had Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska on Real Time to promote his book “The Vanishing American Adult,” and the two men were talking about teens and maturity when the topic of adults dressing in Halloween costumes came up. Maher asked the Senator if they did that in Nebraska.
Sasse said no, “It’s frowned upon. We don’t do that quite as much.”
“I’ve got to get to Nebraska more,” Maher replied.
“You’re welcome. We’d love to have you work in the fields with us,” said the senator.
“Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house n****r,” Maher answered.
Sasse was quiet for a moment.
“No, it’s a joke,” Maher said.
I didn’t take long for that interview to go viral with plenty of criticism pouring in condemning Bill Maher’s language.
Sasse addressed the incident on Twitter.
“I’m a 1st Amendment absolutist. Comedians get latitude to cross hard lines,” he said. “But free speech comes with a responsibility to speak up when folks use that word. Me just cringing last night wasn’t good enough.”
He wishes that he had spoken up at the time.
“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.”
Several notable people stepped up to call out Bill Maher for his remarks.
“Oh no! There are no exceptions that make this acceptable,” Al Sharpton said on MSNBC’s Politics Nation.
“He doesn’t get a pass because we’re friends,” Sharpton added. “What Bill Maher did was normalize a word that is anything but normal.”
In addition, Bill Maher’s ex-girlfriend, Coco Johnson, suggested that Maher’s controversy over having referred to himself as a “house n****r” was par for the course for him.
Johnson, who dated Maher for a year and a half, sued him for $9 million after their relationship dissolved not only for failing to follow through on his promise to marry her but also for verbal abuse and degrading racial comments.
Asked if she heard the N-word from Maher, Coco Johnson said, “I’ve heard it many times. I don’t want to say exactly from where, but I just think that anyone who uses that word, you know, you really need to use some other vocabulary. If you’re an educated person, there are many other words in the vocabulary that you could use other than that.”
And Ice Cube said he wasn’t going to cancel his scheduled appearance on the Bill Maher show over the host’s use the n-word.
When Ice Cube appeared on Real Time With Bill Maher the following week Maher opened the segment with an explaination, “I did a bad thing. For black folks, that word, I don’t care who you are, it’s caused pain. It doesn’t matter that it was not said in malice, it caused pain and that’s why I apologized.”
Ice Cube told Maher that he was “cool with” him and that he enjoyed watching the show. That doesn’t mean, however, that he did not take issue with Maher’s comments the previous week.
“I accept your apology, but I think we need to get to the root of the psyche. Because I think it’s a lot of guys out there, who cross the line ‘cause they a little too familiar or they think they too familiar,” Ice Cube said. “Or it’s guys that y’know, might have a black girlfriend or two that 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’s been used against us. It’s like a knife, man. 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 not gon’ let that happen again. By nobody. Because it’s not cool.”