Bill Maher has endured plenty of backlash for his recent hosting of Milo Yiannopoulos, the trolling, tittering face of the “alt right,” on Real Time, for a conversation that finally took Yiannopoulos to task for his hateful, incendiary rhetoric against, uh, Lena Dunham. Maher treated Yiannopoulos like an amusing sideshow—an “impish Brit” comic, like the love child of Eddie Izzard and Nigel Farage—and used the segment primarily as an opportunity to scold other liberals for getting upset, all while counting on that very same outrage for ratings. For many it was a pandering, chummy display in which Yiannopoulos was allowed to spew his usual sociopolitical shock-jock act unchecked (and occasionally endorsed). To them, Yiannopoulos’ swift fall from bubbling-under cultural force to future guest at The Gathering of the Juggalos over these past few days has only affirmed what a colossal mistake it was for Maher to invite him and ruffle his Justin Bieber hair in the first place.
Or, as Bill Maher puts it: “You’re welcome.”
In a new interview with The New York Times’ Dave Itzkoff, Maher says the chat with Yiannopoulos—in which he exposed nothing that was not already known about him, failed to challenge him on the things he said either in the past or in the moment, and officially coronated him as an exciting new addition to the TV political roundtable—is, quite obviously, directly responsible for Yiannopoulos’ sudden decline. The evidence is conclusive, he says, given that all these things happened over the course of the same weekend:
About a week ago, I went on Van Jones’s show, and somebody asked me about the booking. I hadn’t really gotten into the details of Milo yet. He was just getting on my radar. I said, specifically, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Then we had Milo on, despite the fact that many people said, “Oh, how dare you give a platform to this man.” What I think people saw was an emotionally needy Ann Coulter wannabe, trying to make a buck off of the left’s propensity for outrage. And by the end of the weekend, by dinnertime Monday, he’s dropped as a speaker at CPAC. Then he’s dropped by Breitbart, and his book deal falls through. As I say, sunlight is the best disinfectant. You’re welcome.
Thanks! Now granted, there may be some who would say that Yiannopoulos being disinvited from speaking at CPAC, the loss of his book deal at Simon & Schuster, and his being forced into resigning from Breitbart could more accurately be traced to the self-proclaimed conservative group Reagan Battalion unearthing video of comments Yiannopoulos had made condoning pedophilia—a video that, among many, Maher didn’t challenge him on, nor actually present.
There may also be some who would take issue with Maher laughing about exposing this “emotionally needy Ann Coulter wannabe”—another Maher friend and frequent Real Time guest, whose propensity for stoking liberal outrage has similarly made him a few bucks—when Maher actually described Yiannopoulos as, in front of his TV audience, was “a young, gay Christopher Hitchens” (which sounds at least marginally more complimentary). There are probably also some who would argue that sunlight only works as a disinfectant when you’re not blowing it up someone’s ass.
Nevertheless, you can’t argue with the days of the week, and indeed, Monday does follow Friday. And had Maher not had Yiannopoulos on his show for eight whole minutes of take-no-prisoners goofing around, who knows if there would have been such a concerted effort to remove Yiannopoulos from the CPAC roster based solely on the years of hate speech that had already led to his being permanently banned from the Twitter gutter, a series of increasingly violent protests, and a growing exhaustion with his dull and desperate attempts to flame-war the world? Bill Maher knows: They definitely wouldn’t have, had he not been so unafraid to look Milo right in the face while he’s mouthing off about transgender people having a “psychiatric disorder” and say, “…Okay.”
Not that Maher thinks he should have even had to do that much. As he explains to Itzkoff, “It’s not my job to hold him accountable to everything he’s ever said or done. I had eight minutes with him, on the show itself. Sorry I don’t have time to go over everything everybody else would want to do.” After all, attempting to respond to all the many hateful things Yiannopoulos has said over the course of his career—or even just over the course of those eight minutes—wouldn’t have left enough time for “New Rules.”
Besides, Maher says, “I like people who push the limits. I like people who are not afraid to take the slings and arrows, because they’re going to explore what’s on the edge. Now, is this guy over the edge? Yes. I mean, he’s a little cuckoo. But I would rather err on that side than on the side where everybody else is.” And if booking cuckoos means that sometimes they attract so much controversy that they suffer a tangential downfall he can then take credit for—while simultaneously maintaining that the controversy is, come on, all just a stupid joke—Bill Maher likes that, too.