Well, at least Bill Maher knows the White House can’t be bought. President Barack Obama’s communication team has responded to Maher’s petition asking the leader of the free world to appear on Real Time With Bill Maher. Long story short: Don’t hold your breath, Bill.
“It would have been easy just to say yes,” a disappointed Maher said on his HBO talk show last night. “This is not the Syrian peace talks.” Though Maher conceded that the official response was “nice and complementary blah blah blah,” he described the missive as “basically non-committal and (it) didn’t answer the petition, which was to come on the show or tell us why you won’t.”
Maher, who famously donated $1 million to Obama’s re-election campaign, used the White House response (read the petition and response here) as the set-up for a comedy game-show bit on Friday’s show, in which he listed the prizes Obama would receive for appearing on Real Time: A free stay at the Beverly Hilton Hotel “just minutes” from Hollywood donors and “complementary cable TV” to watch “a bevy of other shows where the host hasn’t given you a million bucks.”
The petition was unveiled on the January 15 episode of Real Time, coinciding with the host’s 60th birthday. Maher beseeched his fans to sign, as a birthday gift, his White House petition asking Obama to appear on the show. White House policy is to issue a public response to any petition with 100,000 signatures – a number Maher’s document reached within 36 hours. By last night, 320,922 people had signed.
Maher had said he couldn’t understand the President’s willingness to drop by seemingly every talk show but Real Time, which gets over 4 million [viewers], “which is a lot these days.” Said Maher: “You’ve done everything but Ultimate Fights and amateur porn. If you went any lower you’d be on Fox and Friends.”
The White House response didn’t completely nix the possibility of an Obama drop-by, but wasn’t exactly promising either, noting “we’ll keep in mind Bill’s open invitation for a presidential appearance and give it the respectful consideration that Bill and his large audience deserve.”
Perhaps to lessen the sting, the response was loaded with flattery. “Plenty of us around here watch Real Time because we admire Bill’s passion for spreading the science on climate change, asking tough questions about money in politics, and trying to burst ‘the bubble’ where some of our politicians — and too many of our nation’s critical political debates — exist.”
The response says that Obama’s “communications team thinks strategically about scheduling presidential interviews, and we have made a concerted effort over the last couple of years to broaden the array of venues where the President appears — from talking to young people about health care on Between Two Ferns and a post-State of the Union conversation with YouTube stars, to a CNN Town Hall on gun violence and an interview with Mic.com on the Iran deal.”
It ended with a P.S.: “Before we forget, happy belated 60th birthday, Bill! You haven’t lost a step, and the gray hair makes you look, dare we say it, presidential. We hope our card didn’t get lost in the mail.”