Bill Maher, the acerbic host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, has welcomed guests from both sides of the political divide including Ann Coulter, Ralph Nader, Bill Kristol and Howard Dean.
But the major presidential candidates have mostly remained elusive, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who, Maher said, “promised me he would do it way back when.”
“When I saw him on [Fox News Channel] with Bill O’Reilly,” he continued, “I e-mailed my producers and said, ‘You know, if he’ll go on with Bill O’Reilly, who treated him like such shit, what does it hurt to throw out [an invitation] one more time?’”
But Maher still hasn’t heard from Obama.
Maher surmised that his new movie, Religulous -- a satirical documentary about one of Maher’s favorite targets, organized religion -- further spooked the Obama campaign.
Maher’s comments following 9/11, when he said the hijackers weren’t cowards, could probably be used against Obama, too.
“I think they’re very afraid of me at the moment,” he said. “I’m sure Obama doesn’t need an attack ad saying, ‘He went on Bill Maher’s show and Bill Maher is a godless avatar of Satan.’ I think that may be part of the problem, also.”
Of course, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Alaska Gov. and republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin aren’t likely to stop by the Real Time studios anytime soon.
Maher has been withering in his assessment of McCain and took aim at Palin immediately after she was announced as McCain’s running mate. He called her a “stewardess” in his opening monologue -- a comment that earned him the “sexist” label from Republican surrogates.
“It’s not sexist,” he argued. “Because she’s a woman, anytime you criticize her, you’re a sexist?”
For the record, Maher, who also blogs for The Huffington Post (Arianna Huffington is a frequent guest), would welcome Palin and McCain. He said, “We always go after everybody that’s in the news.”
But he’s not holding his breath. Maher added that both Bill and Hillary Clinton refused invitations to come on the show.
People running for high offices are generally cautious about whom they’re seen with. And while Obama has appeared recently on CBS’ The Late Show with David Letterman, Maher’s persona as a far-left political satirist who rails against the Iraq war, George W. Bush and conservative ideology makes him somewhat radioactive.
The no-holds-barred format and obvious ideological leanings of the host and his audience can be alienating.
“The nature of our show, and why people like our show, is probably why we have trouble getting guests,” Maher explained. “But I would rather do a show with really smart people talking about the people in the news than have the people in the news come on and give me their bullshit and I can’t question it.”