HBO host Bill Maher on Friday pushed back against criticisms of comedian Dave Chappelle, who has been the subject of controversy after being accused of making transphobic comments in his Netflix special, "The Closer."
Critics have called Chappelle "transphobic" for pointing out during the show that he agrees with author J.K. Rowling's assessment that gender is a fact before declaring that he is on "team TERF," an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. Netflix employees staged a walkout in protest over Chappelle's special this week to stand in solidarity with the trans community.
Maher began his show Friday by noting that Chappelle was in "hot water," which drew some grumbling from the audience.
"What the f--- was that reaction?" Maher asked. "Everyone needs to Netflix and chill the f--- out on this one."
"Really? Dave's special is offensive but not the show where the Koreans murder each other for money?" he continued, referring to the Netflix series, "Squid Game."
The "Real Time" host added that he is of the belief that "people jump to conclusions, people haven't seen it," before saying that Chappelle is not ‘transphobic’ just because critics say he is.
Maher went on to say that "We can't be afraid to speak in America."
He was later joined by "Woke Racism" author John McWhorter and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang for the show's panel discussion.
Maher told the panel that "there isn't just one true opinion."
"I’m a free speech guy. Now, I'm Team Dave, but that doesn't mean I'm anti-trans. We can have two thoughts in our head at the same time," Maher said, adding that he was a supporter of trans rights.
"I'm Team Dave, but that doesn't mean I'm anti-trans. We can have two thoughts in our head at the same time."— Real Time with Bill Maher (@RealTimers) October 23, 2021
Watch @BillMaher, @JohnHMcWhorter and @AndrewYang discuss the uproar over Dave Chappelle's comedy special on #RealTime: https://t.co/2VZL61qtsG pic.twitter.com/HH8UGsQEeB
He later said that "words have meaning, but not anymore."
"When I hear ‘transphobic,’ ‘phobic’ has a meaning. Fear. I'm not transphobic if I merely disagree with you. It's not hate," Maher said. "One of the reactions from someone who worked at Netflix said, ‘This is not an argument with two sides.’ Well, right away you lost me. 'It is an argument with trans people who want to be alive and people who don't want us to be.' Well, that's just ridiculous. Dave Chappelle does not want you to not be alive."
"You know, you're not automatically right if you're trans," he continued. "You're completely equal, you're just not automatically right and it doesn't behoove everybody to get their mind around very new changes, I mean, we were boys and girls for a very long time. It's only been ten years since – how long have we had gay marriage, you know? I mean, talk about the Democratic voter, I'm sure there's a guy in Ohio going, ‘I just got on board with gay marriage, could you give me a minute?’"
McWhorter responded by pointing out that the woke mob think of themselves as "ahead of the curve" and "indicating some sort of higher wisdom" but, in reality, they have a "very simple way of looking at things."
Yang added that "Being a comedian seems like a really, really tough job."
"I think we can agree that comedians' primary role is to entertain, and it's sometimes to make us think," Yang said. "But no one thinks it's a comedian's role to tell us how to think, or what to think, and attributing that role to Dave or any other comedian doesn't serve art, the artist or society at all."
Maher then referenced the Rotten Tomatoes score of Chappelle's special, which only received a 43 percent approval rating from critics compared to a 95 percent approval from the audience.
"It says a lot about the differentiation between real people," Maher said.
He also spoke on the Netflix employees' walkout, saying that the company seems pretty "enlightened," given that they have a lot of trans people working for them.
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