Bill Maher Says Hasan Minhaj No Better Than Trump, Assails Victimization While Playing The Victim
Bill Maher, the late-night host no one dreamed of inviting into the Strike Force Five club, took out his frustrations this weekend on another comedian, Hasan Minhaj. After a New Yorker profile included Minhaj's admissions that he took creative license with his storytelling in the name of “larger truths,” he’s been the subject of plenty of criticism. Maher, unsurprisingly, found a way to take the vitriol up a notch this weekend on his HBO show.
In his closing New Rule segment, Maher gripes that truth no longer matters in America if we don’t want it to be true. Everybody does it. When Donald Trump and the Right lie, he says, we call it a conspiracy theory. When the Left presents an alternate reality, he smirks, we call it “emotional truth.”
Of course, that was the defense offered by Minhaj, a man Maher calls “the comedian who answers the question, ‘What if Jussie Smollett did stand-up?’”
Maher covers his ass early on, acknowledging that “Muslims and people of color in America have, of course, faced prejudice and discrimination. And this country has a racial history that is nothing short of despicable. And some of it continues to this day.”
Things are worse than the Right wants us to believe, says would-be centrist Maher, but better than the Left claims. Minhaj’s comedy antics play right into Maher’s argument that racism in America isn’t so bad these days: “If you have to fabricate the stories of your mistreatment, isn't that itself a comment on where we are now?”
Maher repeats the New Yorker writer’s question about whether or not it matters if many of Minhaj’s stories didn’t really happen. Maher’s answer: ”Yes, it does matter. If you want to speak truth to power, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say you have to include the truth part.”
Maher sounds so angry, it’s almost like Minhaj was making up stories about the Real Time host. And, according to Maher, that’s just what happened. Minhaj “has done this before with me, accusing me of saying Muslims should be put in internment camps, something I've never come close to thinking, let alone saying,” Maher said. “And it's an odd thing to claim, given that this show is, you know, recorded with cameras and audio.”
I had trouble digging up a specific clip to back up Maher’s claims, but I suspect it has something to do with Minhaj’s journey to The Daily Show. Years ago, after impressing the show’s producers with an audition tape, they invited Minhaj to come in and do a live segment on set for Jon Stewart. Minhaj freaked — he’d used up all his good material — but then the viral clips hit featuring Maher sparring with Ben Affleck over their opposing views on Islam. That gave Minhaj the ammunition he needed to write “Batman vs. Bill Maher,” the bit he performed for Stewart.
“Thanks to Bill Maher’s anti-Muslim diatribe,” Daily Beast concluded, “Minhaj got a gig on The Daily Show.”
Was Maher wrong for calling out Minhaj for his exaggerations and outright falsehoods? Seems like a fair topic for comedy criticism. But devoting nearly six-and-a-half minutes to Minhaj bashing reveals that Maher has a personal axe to grind here as well. “The younger generations have a real problem with wanting to build their identity around being a victim,” concludes Maher in his New Rule rant. But that criticism comes on the heels of letting everyone know how Minhaj had done Maher wrong. So who exactly is crying victim here?