Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Messrs. Maher and Limbaugh

The left-wing comedian and the right-wing commentator are more alike than they seem: a current story about the two gives a reason to explain.

The Messrs. Maher and Limbaugh

I don’t watch liberal comedian Bill Maher’s TV show.

I don’t listen to conservative Rush Limbaugh’s radio program.

But I know both make a habit of denigrating people they disagree with and both have no qualms about calling women degrading and/or misogynistic names.

So now Maher is coming to Limbaugh’s defense in the flap over Rush calling a female Georgetown law school student a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

It’s no wonder: They’re two of a kind, and Maher’s looking to cover his ass.

He, after all, during a monologue on his HBO “Real Time with Bill Maher” show last March, referred to Sarah Palin as a “dumb twat.”

I don’t remember much national media complaint about that; certainly nothing like we’ve seen with Limbaugh’s latest.

And I’ve heard the argument that there’s a difference between a public figure such as Palin and a momentarily newsworthy woman such as law student Sandra Fluke. Also, there’s arguably some difference between Maher’s leftist comic renderings and Limbaugh’s right-wing rants, though, in my view, not much.

Maher calling Palin locker room names or calling Michele Bachmann a “bimbo;” and Limbaugh calling the nation’s First Lady “Moochelle” are both good arguments for watching/listening to neither.

Plus, Maher’s $1 million pledge to a political action committee backing President Obama, Priorities USA Action, moves Maher directly and into the political arena as a player rather than an observer.

And it would help if he and all players in that arena – the MSNBC crowd that laughs at and mocks conservatives; the FOX News bunch that does the same to liberals – spent less time spewing crude juvenile witticisms and put more effort into fairly treating opposing views.

I know in the case of Maher and Limbaugh that’s not possible. Both purposely play to biased slices of America. Both got rich doing so.

But their success fosters imitation and can drive the national discussion. They both contribute to the ongoing polarization and dumbing-down of America.

We’ve willingly become a nation that values entertainment over information; that prefers distortion to decent discourse. We are poorer for it. But Maher, Limbaugh and their kind aid and abet our decline.


John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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