UPDATED: “Before we get to the hilarity, I want to say something to the citizenry of Paris,” Bill Maher said at the top of his HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher tonight. He proceeded to sing a very tiny snippet of the French national anthem, and very badly. His audience seemed bewildered, definitely not recognizing the song when Maher was singing it. “It’s my way of saying, ‘We’re with ya’,” he explained.
Another late-night host, Stephen Colbert, addressed the attacks at the very end of the Late Show broadcast. Word of the attack had come while the show was taping at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York.
“Folks, we end tonight’s show with a heavy heart because we taped all of tonight’s show and then we found out about the horrific attacks in Paris today,” he said.
“I know not much is known right now. We do know there have been many deaths and the crisis is still ongoing. President Hollande has declared a state of emergency and President Obama has promised the United States will do whatever it takes to bring those terrorists to justice.”
“We add our thoughts and prayers to everyone in Paris and now, we’ll see you on Monday. Good night,” he said.
A few Donald Trump and Ben Carson jokes into Real Time, Maher brought up Mohammed Emwazi, aka Jihadi John, the Islamic State member who was targeted this week by the Pentagon. The Obama administration said this afternoon that it believes the attack was a success and he’s dead, though they’re still assessing.
“Today Obama smoked him in a drone strike,” Maher said. “So, remember that, Isis, and do not cross a black cat on Friday the 13th.”
Maher told his first guest, journalist and Muslim feminist Asra Nomani, “You are a hero of mine,” explaining, “You say things I try to say … but it means so much coming from you.”
She called him courageous for having “dared to challenge liberals to stand by their values” and talk about “Islamic extremists.”
Asked about today’s attacks in Paris, Nomani noted the killers wore suicide vests and used semi-automatic weapons.
“It’s probably not the Amish,” Maher snarked.
“Obama says he’s going to go after the terrorist, or terrorist networks, but we don’t mention what kind of terrorist networks,” Nomani continued, undeterred. “They run scared, afraid of the name calling. … They don’t want to look like they target a minority [group]. We’re at a place in our history where we have to challenge what it means to be honorable,” she said.
“And what it means to be liberal,” Maher added.
“Why do they hate us?” Maher then asked his panelists Dylan Ratigan, Michael Steele and Jay Leno of the extremists’ attacks on western countries and the GOP’s approach to foreign policy.
It’s like when you watch Star Trek,” Leno said. “Kirk goes to the other planet and he brings democracy. They don’t want it. They don’t care about it.”
“We are financing the oppressor,” Ratigan added.
Maher, of course, is famous for controversial comments he made after the terrorist attacks in New York and outside Washington on September 11, 2001. Referencing President George W. Bush calling the terrorists cowards in a speech, Maher said on his ABC program Politically Incorrect: “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building — say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.”
Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleisher shot back that Maher’s remark was “a terrible thing to say,” and added, chillingly that it was a reminder “to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.” Some advertisers pulled spots from the show, more than a dozen ABC affiliates pulled the show temporarily. Maher apologized to those who took it wrong. But when ABC ended the show in May, some cited the incident as being among the reasons. And Maher moved to HBO.