While right-wingers usually take the worst punishment in a typical one-hour episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, tonight it was noted progressive George Clooney’s turn in the barrel.
Maher and guests SE Cupp and Andrew Sullivan all criticized the star for calling for a boycott of the Beverly Hills and Bel-Air hotels. The luxe properties are owned by the sultan of Brunei, the nation that is about to pass legislation that would sentence to death anyone who is gay or commits adultery. (Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and former New York attorney general Preet Bharara were on Real Time but stayed out of the Clooney fray.)
In an exclusive guest column on Deadline, Clooney argued that Hollywood is capable of applying constructive pressure to address an unconscionable human rights violation, the possibility that homosexuals can legally be stoned to death. “Every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery,” he wrote.
Maher called Clooney’s effort “chickenshit tokenism because, what about Saudi Arabia? If you really want to get back at them, stop driving. Don’t use oil.”
Sullivan complained that “not everything has to be filtered through a political lens. … We shouldn’t be dictating our lives like a religion according to the dictates of wokeness. It kills the vitality of a free society.”
Cupp said she had looked closely at the same kind of critique of Bahrain and the tie to LA luxury hotels when it arose in 2014. “It’s totally hypocritical,” she said. “It’s also the United Arab Emirates, where Hollywood does a ton of business.”
If you’re serious about speaking out about injustice, “Don’t go to a cocktail party with MBS,” Sullivan said, referring to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. After a whirlwind embrace by studio moguls and a range of entertainment figures, the leader has been linked to a range of tyrannical behavior and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“George Clooney is a smart guy who knows about the issues in the Middle East. He made a movie about it called Syriana,” Maher said.