These days, most of Bill Maher’s defenders are the same conservatives he’s made a career out of ridiculing. The latest to have Maher’s back is Mike Huckabee, who applauded the University of California, Berkeley for standing by its invitation for the comedian to speak at next month’s commencement.
“Today, I salute UC Berkeley for defending Bill Maher!” the former Arkansas governor wrote Monday on his blog.
Some students at the university circulated an online petition to remove Maher as speaker, citing his “bigoted and racist” remarks about Islam.
UC Berkeley’s chancellor said the speech will go on, but the protest was just the latest liberal rebuke to Maher, who has long denounced what he believes is a tolerance for violent extremism within Islam. But that view never drew as much attention as it did after Maher got into an on-air shouting match last month with Ben Affleck, who called the comedian’s criticism of the faith “gross” and “racist.”
Maher has found himself pilloried by liberals ever since, so much so that he’s told multiple reporters he no longer wants to discuss the matter. But the brouhaha with Affleck has helped Maher pick up an impressive list of conservative character witnesses. Along with Huckabee, Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly have also defended Maher following the spat with Affleck.
“Nobody seems to mind when he mocks Christians and Jews,” Huckabee wrote. “But after he criticized Islam, suddenly, there were loud protests and demands that his upcoming speech at UC Berkeley be canceled. This is now the default position on campus: silence anyone who might say something you’d disagree with. But Berkeley’s chancellor said Berkeley has always stood for free speech, and Maher is welcome. Good for him.”
Maher said Friday that he intends to go through with the speech and that he will only back out if the commencement ceremony devolves into “a media circus” that distracts from the graduates.