(Editor’s Note: Comedian Bill Maher, host of the long-running HBO show “Real Time with Bill Maher,” spoke with our partners at The Central Voice, the LGBTQ newspaper for the Greater Harrisburg area, on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a trio of LGBTQ civil rights cases. The interview was conducted by Central Voice Editor and Publisher Frank Pizzoli. Maher performs Nov. 10 at the Hershey Theater in Dauphin County.)
The Central Voice: Pennsylvania is an important state in the 2020 presidential election. You’ve asked Trump supporters why they like him. What do they say?
Bill Maher: Pennsylvania may be the most important state in 2020. It’s interesting to me – who used to do a show called Politically Incorrect– that Trump supporters tell me across-the-board they do not like our culture’s emphasis on being politically correct. That always swims to the top.
Q: Your reaction to that feedback?
A: That speaks volumes about where we are in our political culture. Consistently Trump supporters tell me they’re tired of having to watch every P and Q in everything they say. I understand and get some of that. Trump may be a bore but he’s speaking to people who like hearing what he has to say. On the other hand, he’s not boring to the Ultra Woke on Twitter. That’s where we seem to be on all this.
Q: Is Trump accidentally right about ending “endless” wars? Are we abandoning our allies?
A: I made that same point when Trump first ran. Look, it’s not easy to be an Empire. And when it’s over, or you want it to be over, there’s a right way and a wrong way to end dominance. It’s always been easy to go in and difficult to get out.
I think people are generally war-weary. I think it’s also part of Trump’s wanting to undo everything Obama and other presidents put in place before him. But we have to remember that this is a president who has no curiosity. He’s a malignant narcissist who functions only in the here and now. He cannot think ahead. He doesn’t read. He only skims to find his own name. That’s it.
Q: If Trump is impeached or not re-elected, he’s said the US will see violence, maybe even a civil war.
A: We’ve already had two people who’ve made bomb threats. Cesar Sayoc, a Florida bodybuilder and nightclub bouncer. He mailed inoperative pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and media figures he thought were critical of Trump. (Since sentenced to 20 years in prison.)
About six months ago Coast Guard lieutenant Christopher Paul Hasson was charged with stockpiling weapons. (Court documents described Hasson as a “domestic terrorist” who was planning “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country…”. Federal prosecutors said at the time he was cultivating plans to launch a widespread attack on prominent Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and several high-profile television anchors from MSNBC and CNN.)
Both of these guys planned to go out and bomb because they were not happy with things. Borderline personalities respond this way.
Q: How are newspapers, media outlets supposed to “report” and keep their audiences informed?
A: I like newspapers! I’m old-fashioned in that way. Thank God for newspapers. I say that because newspapers have reporters who have to go to Syria and cover a war, firsthand. They go to the White House. They find out what’s going on. And let’s be honest. Most of what appears online actually starts out in a newspaper. Online picks it up. But they pick up stories that are crafted in the old-fashioned way. By asking questions, finding things out and reporting back.
Q: What about the smoke-and-mirrors of misinformation? The Fake News phenomena?
A: What scares me is our quasi-fascist regime. The kind of leaders who want to destroy our confidence in the public media. It’s incredible that 25% of Republicans do not believe that Joe Biden was mentioned in the Ukrainian telephone conversation. Even though the White House has confirmed that he was. That’s scary to me.
Q: Scary to many of our readers is that today (day of actual phone interview) the US Supreme Court will hear three LGBT civil rights cases. Why do you think the country, especially Conservative Christians, and the US Congress, just can’t let this happen? Pennsylvania, by the way, has no LGBT protections.
A: Conservative Christians, they act as if they’re being victimized – Their right to take away your right. I truly believe this will work itself out in the right direction. We should not stop but we should also recognize just how far things have come in recent years. We need to recognize that the piano has been moved. Now we’re just moving the stool.
Q: People are well aware of your comedy and criticism of organized religion. Do you have a place inside that’s your ‘spiritual’ go to?
A: I don’t even know what that means. I’m not sure what the definition of spirituality is. I mean out here in California it means I’m a nice person, I do yoga, and I’m okay – you’re okay. Everybody has their own definition of what spirituality means. I don’t know what it means. I mean think about it. Science tells us that 14 billion years ago the Big Bang was an explosion from something the size of a marble. How am I supposed to understand that? If Stephen Hawkins couldn’t, I can’t.
Q: You just let it go?
A: I don’t bother myself with that stuff. I’m 63 years old. I just want to be healthy. I want to know my prostate is in good health.
Q: I’m 68. Life’s tough enough.
A: Then you get it!
Q: What about your audience here in the Harrisburg region?
A: We are big, broad country. I think it’s a good idea for me to spend time talking about Trump. But then I talk about other things. I feel a bond with my audiences. I know, first of all, we have to pay attention to Trump and our current politics. But we can’t live on that edge. Sure, we have to vent but we also have to laugh. That’s what I hope to accomplish when I’m in the greater Harrisburg area