Bill Maher saved his final “New Rule” on tonight’s Real Time to address sex in the workplace. His news hook was two workplace romances that have gotten a lot of media attention of late: that between Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka and an unnamed female subordinate and the relationship between director Olivia Wilde and her Don’t Worry Darling co-star Harry Styles.
According to ESPN today, “The power dynamic associated with a superior’s improper relationship with a staff member was the primary finding and policy violation” in Udoka’s case. That led to his suspension for a year, with some question as to whether he will return to the team at all.
It is, of course, that type of imbalance that has led to a host of departures in the highest ranks of Hollywood and corporate America since the start of the #MeToo movement.
Maher took issue with Udoka’s suspension, with the caveat that “if it turns out that he was violent or physically coercive, then his case has nothing to do with what I’m about to say and he should expect the appropriate and severe punishment.”
But barring that, Maher called for a “review of our war on office romances,” as he put it.
“Who are we to tell other people they can’t have love because when they met they weren’t exactly co-equal?” asked the host. “People aren’t always attracted to their co-equal. We’re not robots. What we are, apparently, is lonely. There is a loneliness epidemic out there.”
Flashing a photo of Wilde and Styles, Maher observed, “This couple has been in the news lately. Why aren’t we freaking out about a director dating one of her cast members? Power imbalance? Are you kidding? On a movie set, the director is God. But sometimes people fall in love with God. It’s a very attractive position.”
He went on to reframe the idea with some highly-regarded examples, starting with the one that’s most sacrosanct.
“Under Current guidelines, Michelle Robinson could never have dated Barack Obama, who was a summer associate at her law firm when they met,” he observed about the former First Couple.
“Wasn’t there a power imbalance when Joe Scarborough started dating Mika Brzezinski? I’d have to say, ‘Yes,’ because the name of the show was Morning Joe.
Maher then flashed photos of a Mount Rushmore of Hollywood couples to make his point, all of whom met through work. They included Kate Capshaw and Steve Spielberg, Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann, Joel Coen and Frances McDormand, Taylor Hackford and Hellen Mirren, James Cameron and Linda Hamilton and Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton.
“If loneliness is destroying our health…it’s just not helpful to be criminalizing the pool of eligible mates that is the workplace,” concluded Maher. “What happened to ‘My body, my choice?’ ”
You can watch the segment below.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.