Maher and Sasse were speaking about how adults still put on costumes for Halloween when Sasse said that doesn’t happen in his state.
“I’ve got to get to Nebraska more,” Maher responded.
“You’re welcome, we’d love to have you work in the fields with us,” Sasse said.
“Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house n*****. No, it’s a joke,” Maher then said, looking toward the audience.
During an interview with the New York Times on July 15, Maher insisted that he was sincerely apologetic about the incident but he doesn’t agree that he should have to make up for anything else.
“We don’t have to grovel, and we don’t have to admit things that aren’t true,” Maher said. “When Ice Cube said something about my telling black jokes, I wasn’t going to be: ‘Oh, well, I made one mistake; I might as well admit mistakes I haven’t made.’ I’ve never made black jokes. I’ve made jokes about racists. But my fan base knows that, so it never went anywhere.”
“I think most people understood that it was a comedian’s mistake, not a racist mistake,” Maher said.
Maher offered an apology on his show during an interview with Georgetown Prof. Michael Dyson one week after he used the racial slur on live TV, saying, “I did a bad thing.”
“It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t said in malice, if it brought back pain to people,” Maher said on June 9. “That’s why I apologize freely and I reiterate it tonight.”
Dyson then set the context for Maher’s words, explaining that “black people said, it’s not as if black people in the house were any better off than the people in the field, both of them were subject to slave, dominance, hegemony, hatred and the like, as a result of that, people think that’s insensitive.”
Rapper Ice Cube was also part of a panel on Maher’s show on June 9. While he accepted Maher’s apology, he explained a little further why the late-night host’s words were offside.
“I think it’s a lot of guys out there who cross the line because they’re a little too familiar, or they think they’re a little too familiar,” he said.
“Every now and then, they think they can cross the line, and they can’t.”
Ice Cube went on to say that white people have used the N-word against black people “like a knife,” and that they’re “not going to let that happen again.”
“That’s our word now,” he said. “And you can’t have it back.”
—With files from Jesse Ferreras