You know how sometimes you come up with a really off-color joke, but then you think, “Nah, don’t do that, bro”? Bill Maher should probably practice that second step a few more times.
Early Thursday morning, comedian Bill Maher — host of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher — tweeted a photo in which he sports a gleeful, open-mouthed grin, hands outstretched toward the chest of fellow actor and comedian Bob Saget.
“These New Years Hawaii trips are getting weird,” Maher tweeted. “Saget, forgive me!”
If the photo looks familiar, it’s because Maher was re-enacting the 2006 photo in which former Minnesota senator Al Franken groped Los Angeles radio show host Leeann Tweeden. At the time, she was asleep onboard a plane returning to L.A. from the Middle East as part of a United Service Organization trip to entertain troops. Franken was working as a comedian.
Tweeden shared the photo and the story of how it affected her in November, citing the growing #MeToo movement as the reason for finally breaking her silence. In the time since Tweeden spoke up, numerous women have come forward with similar stories, alleging that Franken behaved inappropriately toward them. As a result of the allegations, Franken announced in December he would resign from his position as a Democratic senator for the state of Minnesota.
Needless to say, Maher’s tweet is not going over smoothly. Some defenders are saying it was just a joke, but there are plenty of responses that are critical of Maher’s decision to make light of sexual assault.
Maher is, of course, no stranger to controversy. In June, the talk-show host used a racial slur during Real Time With Bill Maher while speaking with Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska. There was an immediate and intense backlash, in which some called for Maher to be fired. Maher soon apologized, saying, “The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry.”
Jan. 4, 2018, 3:56 p.m.: This story has been updated.