UPDATED with videos Sam Harris, the controversial and best-selling New Atheist who became a top Real Time with Bill Maher statistic when his heated 2014 debate with Ben Affleck went viral, wasted little on his return visit tonight before bringing up old arguments. “If Batman were here, he’d call us racist,” Harris said during his top-of-the-show interview before expounding on Islam and the Western liberals he and Maher insist go easy on it.
And he was, no doubt, correct — at least about the Batman thing. “You don’t have to be a fascist or a racist or even a Trumpian to not want to import people into your society who think cartoonists should be killed for drawing the prophet,” Harris told Maher, adding that liberals “have failed on the topic of theocracy.”
Harris, who got famous as the vanguard of the New Atheist movement that included Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, drew Affleck’s ire during the October 6, 2014, episode. “Ben,” he said then, “we have to be able to criticize bad ideas, and Islam at this moment is the motherlode of bad ideas.”
Affleck called Harris’ argument “gross,” “racist” and “ugly.” As of tonight, that exchange had 3.8 million YouTube views, the longstanding most popular Real Time clip until September 16, which Kellyanne Conway she predicted a Trump win and soon scored both a political victory and 4.1 million YouTube views. Watch the Affleck clip below.
Despite his criticism of Democrats — after the Orlando nightclub shootings, he said, “Hillary Clinton could only talk about gun control” — he’s no fan of Donald Trump’s travel ban. “These people in Syria are the unluckiest people in the world and if they don’t pose a security concern we should welcome them into our society,” he told Maher.
And Affleck wasn’t the only Hollywood actor mentioned on the HBO show tonight. Like Maher, Harris is critical of religion, and Islam most pointedly. “If the Scientologists were practicing suicide bombings in dozens of countries, if they were killing people for drawing pictures of L Ron Hubbard, Tom Cruise would have more to answer for than he already does, and he’s got a fair amount to answer for,” Harris said.
Also on tonight’s episode, Maher pledged his support for the Atlanta Falcons over the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl — thanks to Trump and “one of his first supporters,” Pats quarterback Tom Brady. Watch Maher’s Falcons endorsement – and his NSFW shout-out to Brady – below.
“Is there anything this man can’t ruin?,” Maher said about the president. “He took something beautiful — this game where millionaires give each other brain damage — and made it tawdry and cheap.”
Other guests on tonight’s episode were academic Michael Eric Dyson, politician Jason Kander, political commentator Tomi Lahren and political strategist Rick Wilson.
Here is Maher’s message to Tom Brady:
And here’s the Harris-Affleck bout from 2014: