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CNN Live Event/Special

Maher Predicts "If It's Biden Against Trump, Biden Will Win"; Maher: "I Would Categorize Liberal As Different Than Woke"; Bill Maher: Crowded GOP Field Ensures A Trump Nomination. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 28, 2023 - 21:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT & CNN ANCHOR (voice- over): In this era of tribal politics, comedian Bill Maher doesn't care, if you're a Democrat or a Republican.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you welcome please Bill Maher?

TAPPER (voice-over): His decades, at the crossroads, of politics and comedy, has given him an insight, political consultants and bookies would die for.

From this, in 2015?

MAHER: All those people, who say "Donald Trump could not go all the way," I don't think they're right.

TAPPER (voice-over): To this, just a few years later.

MAHER: I don't think he's leaving, if - even if he loses the election in 2020.

TAPPER (voice-over): Tonight, Bill Maher looks ahead to 2024, and Trump's odds now.

TAPPER (on camera): You think he's going to get the nomination? And do you think he can beat Joe Biden?

TAPPER (voice-over): And Maher doesn't hold back about President Biden or the Democrats either.

MAHER: Democrats sometimes can take it too far.

TAPPER (voice-over): He gives us his unfiltered take.

TAPPER (on camera): How do you define wokeness?

TAPPER (voice-over): On cancel culture, religion, and one of his favorite hobbies. TAPPER (on camera): So, you're a - you're a connoisseur of weed, I think that's very fair, to say.

MAHER: I would think it's very fair.

TAPPER (voice-over): From real-time to primetime, this is a CNN One- On-One Special.


TAPPER: Welcome to a CNN Primetime Special, ONE-ON-ONE WITH BILL MAHER.

I'm Jake Tapper, in Washington, back from a sit-down, with a man, who isn't afraid to take on, well, anything.

Bill Maher has been a figure in the world of political comedy for more than 40 years, and he doesn't seem to care who is in power or whether his opinion's unpopular. He still hits the road for stand-up shows across the country. And he's currently the Host of "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO, which like CNN is owned by Warner Brothers Discovery.

This hour, you'll hear Maher's takes on the next race for the White House, the state of comedy and, what he calls, cancel culture.

But first, we talked about how he got started in comedy, and how he has become the great predictor of Donald Trump.


TAPPER: So thanks so much for doing this.

MAHER: Hey, pleasure.

TAPPER: So a lot of people might not know that your dad was actually in the news biz.


TAPPER: I mean, your mom was a nurse, but your dad was in the news business.

And I'm - and I'm wondering how much you think that might have had an effect on the fact that you do very news-oriented comedy.

MAHER: Tremendously. I think it was a great advantage.

First of all, he was also funny. And you'll find this a lot with comedians that comedy gene sort of gestates through a generation.

I grew up in a house that was interested in the news. My parents talked about the news. I was aware of it, in a way I don't think most kids were. So, those were my influences, comedy and news.

And then what did I do? I wound up doing a show that is a comedy show that uses the news as fodder. And I wish my father could have lived to see it.

TAPPER: He pass away early?

MAHER: No, but he - he saw me, like, do Johnny Carson, but he didn't see "Politically Incorrect."

TAPPER: What's your response when people tell you that - and you must hear this a lot - that they get - that you're one of their primary sources of information?

MAHER: Flattered and, "as it should be" (LAUGH) is my response. I feel like people are looking for something that is not slanted.

I mean, I certainly have lost fans over the years, because I don't say the things that please people all the time. But that's my ultimate bond with the audience. When I lose people, it's, like, "OK, well, you were never meant to be with me in the first place." (LAUGH)


MAHER: We can't have a relationship.

TAPPER: There are a whole lot of people who are just conditioned to only hearing, only wanting to hear one side of the story.

MAHER: Correct. They do not want to hear the other side. I mean, that's - it's so ironic. When I started on "Politically Incorrect" 30 years ago, 1993, everybody said, "You know, you can't really do a show like this because you're giving your opinions. That's not what talk show hosts do. They don't and can't give their opinions. You'll alienate half the crowd."

That's not what Johnny Carson did. That's not what David Letterman did. That's not what Jay Leno did. And I said, "Well, let's give it a try."


MAHER: "Maybe the people are a little more sophisticated than you're giving them credit for, and they can actually take it, that a guy who's on TV, they don't always agree with him, but they still like him," just like in life, you don't always agree with your friends on everything.

So, it did turn out that it was OK, because here I am 30 years later, still on.


But I get every year when we are looking for maybe we want new writers, on our show. I love the writers I have. But you know what? I'm running a business here.

TAPPER: Right.

MAHER: I'm sorry, it's brutal, but if I can find somebody better, that's what I'm doing. I always serve the show first.

So every year, I read these packets of proposed writers, and I read them this year, as I do every year. And it's just stunning, how uniform their points of view are.

TAPPER: And it always - it hasn't always been that way?

MAHER: Exact - I don't remember, but I don't think it was ever quite this bad. It's the exact same point of view on every single issue. And it's very predictable.

I have a relationship with people who want to hear what I think is the truth. And I'm going to present both sides. And they may not be fair and balanced, there may not be equal weight put to each side, because that's not what the truth is. The truth isn't always 50/50.

TAPPER: Right.

MAHER: So - I live with that. But it's - it gets more difficult because we are so tribal now.

TAPPER: So it's interesting about this is because this comes after, five, six years of - of Trump, where it's not like you pulled punches against him at all.

MAHER: No. Nobody was harder (LAUGH) on that man, I don't think. And honestly, nobody was more - had their hair on fire about what was going to happen, as far as him not believing in democracy and not wanting to leave.


TEXT: HBO/2018.

MAHER: I don't think he's leaving, if - even if he loses the election in 2020.

TEXT: HBO/2019.

MAHER: He could lose by a landslide in 2020. And I still think he would say "It's rigged. Fake news! Deep State!"

TEXT: HBO/2020.

MAHER: If Trump loses the election in November, he's not going to leave.



TAPPER: You were predicting that in 2018?

MAHER: Oh - oh, 2016.

TAPPER: 2016, you're saying he's-- MAHER: Yes, before he was even president, I said, this--

TAPPER: He's not going to leave if he loses?

MAHER: Never going to leave, right.


MAHER: And I--

TAPPER: What made you think that?

MAHER: (LAUGH) Have you seen this man? He's everything wrong with a human being stuffed into one man. I mean, how could he ever do anything different?

He is incapable, I think, of ever conceding defeat, and I've never seen him do it. So, why would I think he would be gracious ever, in that situation, or say he ever lost?

And he said it. I mean, even in 2016 when he was running, they would ask him point-blank, "Would you--" "Well-- it's--" you know, he's basically saying, "If we win, yes, then it's a fair election. If we don't, it was rigged." He would never actually just come out and say, "Yes, of course, this is America. This is how we do."

TAPPER: Right.

MAHER: "This is the jewel in our crown in this country. We - the peaceful transfer of power." Nothing like that.

TAPPER: You've been the great predictor of Donald Trump. You thought he could win. You thought he wasn't going to--

MAHER: Right.

TAPPER: --leave peacefully.

He's running.

MAHER: Oh, yes.

TAPPER: You think he's going to get the nomination? And do you think he can beat Joe Biden?

MAHER: Both.

TAPPER: But both you think affirmatively? Or both think - you think they - they could happen?

MAHER: I - I - well, first of all, it could - it might not be Joe Biden. I think if it's Biden against Trump, Biden will win. I do. Not guaranteed, but I think that's a really good bet. It was the first time, and I think it would be the second time even more so.

TAPPER: Even at age 82? MAHER: Yes, absolutely.

Well, first of all, I think that's a big red herring that his age is such a factor. You don't need to be young or spry to be president. Yes, it's very helpful to run for president. You need to be energetic and look sharp at the debate.

He could do the job of president perfectly fine, and I think he's done the job perfectly fine. Do I love everything he has done? Absolutely not. But he's president. That goes with the territory.

But generally, he's restored normality. He's got some things passed that nobody thought he could get through this divided Congress. Got out of Afghanistan. Did he stick the landing on that one? No, but at least he did it. I mean, Ukraine? I think he's done fine.

And every other country in the world seems to have gotten this idea about the elderly: "They're wise." That's what you need. I don't mind at all that he's 82 or 84 or 86. Yes, if he loses his marbles, but there are plenty of 86-year-old people who have not lost their marbles.

And people used to get that. "We have an important decision to make. Go to the elders. They will tell you what the wise decision is, and then you young people will go and carry it out."

He doesn't have to go and do every little thing.

I mean, Reagan didn't do anything! He went to bed at 4:30!

So that does not bother me at all. No, it's going to bother people in the country, because when you run for president, you get exposed, your flaws. And yes, he's - when you're in your 80s, he's going to stumble. He was always a gaffe machine to begin with.


MAHER: So it could look bad. But I think as, if it's Trump against Biden, I think Biden will win. But - if it--

TAPPER: What if it's not Biden--

MAHER: --if it's not Biden, I don't know.

TAPPER: So you talk about the Democrats being so hemmed in by identity politics.


The counter argument would be, it's always been identity politics. It's just always been white people so people like you and me didn't notice.

MAHER: Right.

TAPPER: And now it's just an effort at inclusion, which I'm sure theoretically you support?

MAHER: Yes. I support it in fact. But, I mean, the Democrats sometimes can take it too far. Or I would - I would categorize liberal as different than woke.

Woke, which started out as a good thing, alert to injustice. Who could be against that? But it became sort of an eye-roll, because they love diversity except of ideas. And that's not really where we should be. I mean, they have a trail of very bad ideas, I would think, in wokeness. Like--

TAPPER: How do you define wokeness? Because I hear people use the term all the time, and they mean something different to everybody.

MAHER: Well, again, I think it's this collection of ideas that are not building on liberalism but very often undoing it.

I mean, five years ago, I don't - Abraham Lincoln was not a controversial figure among liberals. We liked him. (LAUGH) Now they take his name off schools and tear down his statues. Really? Lincoln isn't good enough for you?

Five, 10 years ago - bedrock liberalism was, we are striving to be a color-blind society, where we don't see race. Of course, we see it, but it doesn't matter. That's not what woke is. Woke is something very different. It's - it's identity pol-- it's we see it all the time. It's always the most important thing. I don't think that's liberalism.

I mean, I could mention so many issues like that. I remember doing - that show on HBO, Comic Relief for the homeless. And the idea then - again, among liberals, I thought was, "For the sake of compassion, can we get these people off the street so they have a roof over their heads?"

And now it's, like, "How dare you (LAUGH) try to move the homeless. This is where they live." It's, like - again, you change the definitions, and then you say "I'm more conservative." I believe what I've always believed. You change these things, and then you yell at me for it.


TAPPER: Up next, he got it right in 2016 and 2020. What's Bill Maher's take on Trump 2024?


MAHER: If it's a bunch of people in there, yes, they're going to split the anti-Trump vote, because, Trump has a very hard-core following. I mean, it's a cult. And cults don't ever go away.




MAHER: It's not me who's changed. It's the left, who is now made up of a small contingent who've gone mental and a large contingent who refuse to call them out for it. But I will.



TAPPER: Do you think Democratic politicians have changed their views? Or do you think they're just afraid of their party's activists the way that a lot of Republicans are afraid of their party's activists, the MAGA folks?

MAHER: B. (LAUGH) They're afraid, yes.

TAPPER: They're just afraid?

MAHER: Yes, I think - I think both sides, I think, again, there's four tribes, I think, in this country. I think there's old-school liberals and old-school conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, the kind of people who used to - I think that's the majority of the country.

TAPPER: Like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush or something?

MAHER: Yes. The kind of people who never agreed on a hell of a lot, but they found ways to work together. They didn't hate each other. It wasn't all about making liberal tears and cry and all this stuff, and, owning and destroying people. It was just, "Yes, I don't agree with Bob Dole, but, we can work together. We can get a grand bargain." That kind of stuff. And so I think that's the majority.

But then you have Trumpers and then you have wokesters. And those fringes are not doing this country any great favors.

TAPPER: If Donald Trump is challenged for the nomination - I mean, he's obviously already being challenged by Governor Nikki Haley, and then there's talk of other people.

MAHER: Right.

TAPPER: Governor DeSantis.

MAHER: Right.

TAPPER: And Mike Pompeo and others, Vice President Pence. Do you think any of them can take him out?

MAHER: No. But I think what they will do is ensure him the nomination.

TAPPER: By splitting all the alternates?

MAHER: Absolutely.

TAPPER: Same thing that happened before? MAHER: Yes. The only way Trump doesn't get that nomination is if it's just him and DeSantis.

If it's a bunch of people in there, yes, they're going to split the anti-Trump vote, because, Trump has a very hard-core following. I mean, it's a cult. And cults don't ever go away. Look at Christianity!

So, I despair about that, because I think when politicians smell the White House, they don't care about the repercussions for the country. They just want to go for it.

DeSantis against Trump, I think, could get it.

Somebody said to me once, a conservative guy, he said, "The thing you guys don't understand about us is we don't really like Trump." Now that doesn't speak for all the Trumpers. He definitely has some real fans.

TAPPER: Oh sure.

MAHER: But there's a lot of people who voted for him, and that's their little secret, "We don't like him either. We just vote for him because the stuff that you guys are doing on your fringe is scarier to us than what he's doing," which is saying a lot. And I'm not quite with them, but I get it.


MAHER: I get it.

TAPPER: I think it's also that he hates the same people that they hate, even if they don't agree with Trump--


TAPPER: You know what I mean?

MAHER: And they love it that he sticks his thumb in their eye.


Do you think that DeSantis is part of the old-school Republican tribe? Or do you think he's more of a Trumper 2.0?

MAHER: That's the great question. I don't know if he's playing a part or if that's really him. He's - the reason he's so effective is he does two things at once. He can be a real old-school Republican who just takes care of business. COVID, the hurricane, stuff like that, he just goes about his business. He doesn't do crazy stuff.

But then, when he wants to throw red meat to the base, he's a performance artist. And he does a lot of really outrageous stuff.

But I get it that that's where the party is. If you want a big future in that party, especially if you want to take on Donald Trump, you got to ride both those horses at once. [21:20:00]

Everybody keeps saying to me, "But he has no personality." I don't think people care. Like, a lot of politicians don't have personality. Nixon had no personality. I mean, I could name some politicians who have absolutely no personality. It's not a prerequisite.

I mean, it's great if you have one, like, Obama had a great one and Kennedy had a great one. But Biden is not, you know? I mean, James Brown at the Apollo exactly!


MAHER: I mean, I don't think that's going to hold Ron DeSantis back.

TAPPER: You know, it's interesting. I met this couple from Florida, liberal Democrats, and then they told how much they loved Ron DeSantis.

MAHER: Really?

TAPPER: Loved him. And it's for the governance.

MAHER: From Florida?

TAPPER: Yes. They were from Florida.

MAHER: The people in Florida like him.

TAPPER: Well, he won reelection with almost 60 percent of the vote.

MAHER: Also, while the rest of the country was overdoing COVID, flor-- I was there during COVID. It was night and day from this place. And I am not one who is ever on the page with COVID paranoia. So, I thought it was a breath of fresh air.

And the people there, when they would visit me here sometimes they would say, "Oh my God." In the middle of the pandemic, what - what do you-- "Do you people live like this? It's so unnecessary. We don't live like this."

TAPPER: Right.

MAHER: And it turned out a lot of what Ron DeSantis did was smarter than what the people who were criticizing were saying. I mean, he kept the beaches open. Yes, you're not going to get it outside. In fact, it's good. Get some fresh air and some sunshine. That would be better for you.

And he also protected the elderly. It was much more targeted. It was sort of the opposite of what happened in New York State.


TAPPER: Next, he is an outspoken critic of what he calls cancel culture. But as someone with a history of controversial comments himself, does Bill Maher think his clock is ticking?


MAHER: Anybody in this era can absolutely fall off the ledge at any moment.

In two seconds, I could get canceled. Anybody could.





MAHER: The oath of office, I took, was to comedy.


MAHER: And if you do goofy shit, wherever you are in the spectrum, I'm going to make fun of you because that's where the gold is.



TAPPER: What is it like to be a comedian in this era? Is it more difficult?

Do audiences boo you at times that you're not ready for them to boo you or you're surprised?

MAHER: It's always possible. I mean, it's interesting. My studio audience at "Real Time" (LAUGH) always booed me - not - for most of the show, but they were definitely more woke than I was - and definitely more sensitive.

I would ask all - all the time over there, I said, "Why? These are the people who - they claim that they - flew all the way across the country. They waited for months to get tickets to this show. They're my fans. And then they come here and they're saying, 'Oh.'"

There's something about when you get in public you have to put on this act that you are somehow more of a moral person than you really are. Not that I'm doing anything immoral, but that you have to react in a certain way to things that are politically incorrect. You'd think I would come pre-advertised. I mean, there's a sign right--

TAPPER: Right, "Politically Incorrect."

MAHER: It's a sign there (LAUGH) that - and the - and the show was called "Real Time."

And then, about five years ago we did - I don't know what they did with the audience but they - they got rid of the groaners, and it made my life so much better.

And there are people who actually say to me now, "Oh, I miss the days when you used to fight with the audience."


MAHER: Well, maybe you do, but I don't.


MAHER: You know? But I was never one of those comics, who could just pretend, "Oh, (LAUGH) I'm sorry. I must've made a mistake there."

I'd be like, "No, I didn't make a mistake. There's nothing wrong with that joke. Stop groaning. Get the stick out of your ass." I must've said that 20 times on my show.


MAHER: And then when the pandemic came around, first we didn't have any audience, then we shot here.

And when we came back we were allowed to have, like, half the audience because of social distancing. And again, they just weeded out the people who were groaning. And I would say in the last three, four years I've never had that problem again, and it is such a pleasure.

My audience who comes to my show now understands me. They think like me. They - they have open minds. They're - they're not woke. They're generally liberal, but they can be conservative too. And we have a great time, and there's no groaning. And I love it.

And on the road it was always that way. People who pay, you know, a good penny for a hard ticket price to come see a stand-up show, they generally want you to be exactly who you are. So it's - it was always pretty hard to get - I'd have to be (LAUGH) pretty far out there, I could do it, to get people to groan on the road.

But, look, any comic in this era, anybody in this era can absolutely fall off the ledge at any moment. It's - it just makes me laugh when people say to me, "You know, you're uncancelable." Are you kidding? I could - I would - in two seconds, I could get canceled. Anybody could.

TAPPER: Who were the comedians that influenced you, that-- that encouraged you to walk towards this path where you're not afraid to say what you think?

MAHER: Carlin was the main one who did that, in the era, when I was growing up and when thinking about being a comedian, when I was a kid. He was the guy who, when I was really little, he was, just a suit and tie, short haircut, doing funny stuff.

TAPPER: Right.

MAHER: But not controversial. And then he had that big turnaround around 1970 - when I was 14. So, this was very formative, for me. I already knew I wanted to be a comedian. And so, to see a guy do that, suddenly he had long hair, and he was wearing a t-shirt. And he was challenging the Establishment, and he was saying bold things. And he did that for the rest of his life.

I didn't always even agree with him. He said some really weird things. He was not an environmentalist, for example.


MAHER: But he never pulled a punch. And he - you know, I remember (LAUGH) one special, his first - his opening line - I can't say the word, but it's the word that begins with F, and it was, "F (LAUGH) Lance Armstrong." And this was when Lance Armstrong was the biggest hero--

TAPPER: Before he was--

MAHER: This--

TAPPER: --uncovered, yes.

MAHER: This-- this was before the fall.


MAHER: And just to say that's his opening line. But he said, don't tell me who my heroes are. Don't tell me who my heroes are supposed to be. Don't dictate that to me.

I loved that. And I like Lance Armstrong.

TAPPER: Did -- did you-- you-- you must've met Carlin a million times.

MAHER: I met him a few times. He was on the show -- my old show a couple of times. It really wasn't for him. I understood why. It was -- you had to share the stage with three other people, and they were not up to his intellectual caliber. So -- he didn't do that a lot.

I mean, we -- we were not contemporaries so I did not really know him at all. But I did speak at his memorial, and I was proud to be there.

TAPPER: So, you know, I hear a lot about comedians being afraid to perform in the new environment, but by the same token, I mean, I see Dave Chappelle still doing very well.

MAHER: Yeah.

TAPPER: There's one thing I -- I wanted to get your reaction to something because obviously Chappelle has been criticized a lot because of his -- making fun of transgender-- the transgender community.

This is what David Cross says, and he's -- David Cross is a pretty edgy comedian and --

MAHER: Yes, great -- great comedian.

TAPPER: And he says -- this is -- he's talking -- he's not talking about you certainly, and he's not even talking about Chappelle necessarily in the quote, but he's talking about people who make the kind of jokes making fun of transgender, he said, you're positioning yourself as this bullshit voice of, they're not going to cancel me. You can't silence me.

For what? Your dumb joke about trans people? Who gives a shit? I mean, is it that important to you? Just move along and not hurt hundreds of thousands of people. It's a choice people make.

I thought it was an interesting quote. I mean, I guess the larger criticism of Chappelle from people like David Cross is, he's punching down, not like what Carlin did punching up.

What do you think?

MAHER: I don't really agree. I mean, I think the trans community is asking for too much. Again, the difference between liberal and woke.

Liberals are people who I think would say -- I certainly would-- trans is, of course, a real thing. You know, some people are just, you know, I don't -- I'm -- they probably don't like this terminology, but born in the wrong body, whatever the -- the equipment doesn't match how you feel.

Absolutely. And it's great we live in a time where people like that can freely live the lives they should live with all the dignity and protection of the law that we can afford them, like anybody else in society. I think that's the liberal point of view.

The woke point of view is something very different, like -- well, babies are born now and just jump ball, we don't know what they are.

Congratulations, you have a boy. Well, let's not be hasty. There's a penis. That could be an indication of a male, but it's -- it's really-- we'll find out later. And we can always get rid of it.

And it's not wrong to have this discussion. This is some -- something that's very new. It's not to shut it -- to shut down debate with these words like phobia.

You're phobic and you hate -- we don't hate. It's not hate. It's not phobic. We're not afraid.

We're just discussing something very new that involves children and what -- these interventions you're making have repercussions for the entire rest of their lives and they're about their health, which I think should come first.

TAPPER: So I think if a trans activist were here right now, they might say, we're not afraid of having discussions and debate, but you're talking about these issues at a time when states like Idaho and Florida and others are talking about banning these procedures, regardless of what the kid and the parents and the doctor want.

MAHER: Well, that's --

TAPPER: And that that's, like, a bigger issue than the term pregnant people.

MAHER: Well, that's probably a backlash that went too far.

TAPPER: You think that's --



MAHER: Yeah. I think that is, to -- to completely ban it. But I also -- I also don't agree with what you just said. They absolutely do want to shut down debate.


TAPPER: Next on CNN PRIMETIME, he's given million dollar political donations in the past, so will Bill Maher open his wallet again?


MAHER: I remember my manager saying, couldn't you just give 500,000? And I said, no, because the million dollars gets people's attention.





MAHER: Instead of giving an "I voted" sticker to the people who did vote, let's make the people who didn't vote wear one that says "I couldn't be bothered".



TAPPER: The way you talk, I wonder if you are going to be as involved politically in 2024 as you have been in the past. I remember you giving millions of dollars -- to help Barack Obama --

MAHER: Well --

TAPPER: -- get elected.

MAHER: Yes. I -- well, I gave -- I gave a million dollars to Obama. That -- one I'm absolutely hap --

TAPPER: 2012? MAHER: -- happy I did that. Yes, because it was the first year of the Citizens United ruling went into effect.

TAPPER: So you gave it to Priorities USA, which is a pro-Obama --

MAHER: Correct--

TAPPER: -- super PAC.

MAHER: Correct. Because I felt like at the moment, people had not gotten the memo that we are playing on a completely field than we ever were before. Anybody can give any amount of money. And somebody has to, like, ring the bell here and say, look, we're at the million dollar level.

I remember my manager saying, couldn't you just give $500,000? And I said, no, because the million -- million dollars gets people's attention, especially from somebody who's not a billionaire. You know, a million dollars hurt. You know, I -- I wasn't driving an Uber, but it hurt, okay? But I thought it was so important that the first Black president get reelected, almost more important than being elected. He could not be a one -- and he was a good president.

TAPPER: So it wasn't --

MAHER: He --

TAPPER: -- about Mitt Romney. It was --

MAHER: It was not about Mitt Romney. I mean, I wasn't a big fan of Mitt Romney, but Mitt Romney wasn't -- I would give anything for Mitt Romney to have been president instead of Donald Trump. But, no, it was about we have to make sure that the first Black president gets a fair shake and gets reelected otherwise people would've said, "Oh, see? We tried a Black president and it didn't work."

And he was such the perfect first Black president, and I think one of our greatest presidents.


MAHER: Thank you so much. Did a hell of a job in this office.


MAHER: So that was -- yeah. And then I gave -- Chuck Schumer came around in 2018 and said, I think I can retake the Senate if you give me a million dollars. I know you've done it before. And I did it again. That one I might want back because it -- it -- first of all, it didn't work.

TAPPER: Right.

MAHER: And, you know, I -- yeah. So now of course every Democratic politician is always calling me up and like, hey, you're -- you're the easy-- TAPPER: You're the million dollar guy.

MAHER: -- you're the easy touch. And it's like, no, I think I'm done with my --

TAPPER: Obama didn't even ask you if you'd give a million dollars.

MAHER: Yeah.

TAPPER: Are you-- are you going to get involved? I mean, do you think it's important for a Democrat --

MAHER: It's possible--

TAPPER: --to be in the White House and for the Democrats to control the Senate? What do you think of Republican-led House?

MAHER: If it's -- if it's Trump running -- the problem is that I don't think money works anymore. I don't think it matters.

I mean, Trump beat Hillary and spent way less than she did. He just was smarter. He didn't saturate the airwaves with commercials like she did, and I think -- I've been in markets -- when I'm on the road doing stand-up where I'm in a hotel for literally 18 hours, and I see the same commercial 50 times.

And by the time -- I don't know even who this candidate is and I hate them. It can work the other way around. Trump saved all his money and he put on this great commercial, this hour-long commercial, like, the day before the election. That was very effective, and people saw that and--

TAPPER: It was a lot of Facebook ads. They did a lot of internet stuff.

MAHER: Yeah. And of course he was also this guy that America had come to think of as this genius businessman because he was on "The Apprentice". And I can't even go into it. But, look, it -- if it was-- if I thought a million dollars could stop Donald Trump from being president again, yes, I -- I would write -- get out my checkbook again.

TAPPER: Were you despondent when Trump was elected? Did you think, "Oh, my God, this isn't the country I thought it was"?

MAHER: I was -- I was afraid for my own wellbeing. I thought I could wind up in Guantanamo Bay. I think I still could.

I mean, he's -- he was ranting about me all last week again. He's obsessed sometimes. I don't know. He went on a tear for about eight months when he was president every time he'd have a rally. I have a list three pages long of the things he's called me.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Bill Maher, everybody know Bill Maher, for example? He's a radical left maniac with modest television ratings. Modest.


MAHER: The press nut-job, low-rating sleaze-bag. And he was doing it again last week. He doesn't like I'm on CNN.


MAHER: I don't know why that gets to him. He doesn't like --

TAPPER: Oh, he's doing it now since you doing the thing on Friday nights.

MAHER: Yes. He's -- he doesn't like that.

TAPPER: On Truth Social, he does it.

MAHER: Or in a rally. He doesn't like that Fox quotes me, when Fox quotes me. You know, and, of course, Fox will watch one of my shows, 90 percent of it might be something they -- material that they hate, but they take out of it.

TAPPER: No, they do the, "Even liberal Bill Maher." They -- they --

MAHER: Right, exactly.

TAPPER: That's what they do to you every time.


MAHER: Right. You have to preface it by saying, look, we hate this guy, he's awful, but, you know, he said one good thing. And Trump, that drives -- so I don't know. So I -- I am afraid of Trump on a very personal level because I don't think he likes me. I understand why. And I don't know what he would do in a second term.

I mean, he is obviously someone who does not know any boundaries, and, you know, you have to worry when you see what other authoritarian rulers do in other countries to people. I'm not thinking he's going to become Putin and start pushing people out windows, but I'm not going to live on the thirtieth floor anywhere either.

TAPPER: Why do you think he obsesses about you so much?

MAHER: I-- I just --

TAPPER: Do you think he longs for your approval? Do you--

MAHER: I-- no. I do -- I cannot get into his head. I just think he -- he lives -- he's a media creature. He doesn't read. He only looks at television. I mean, every time he quotes me he always says, "I was watching the show accidentally."

TAPPER: Right. It's --

MAHER: I mean, if he only knew-- TAPPER: I just stumbled on HBO. I don't know how that happened.

MAHER: He's not aware of what a preposterous figure he is.


TAPPER: Ahead on this CNN PRIMETIME special --


MAHER: You can believe in the spaghetti monster. You can believe in whatever god you want, whatever myth you want, we don't care. We just want to be left alone and not castigated.


TAPPER: Bill Maher's take on religion and whether or not he considers himself an aggressive atheist.




MAHER: God is a super powerful. He can do anything.


MAHER: Why does he not just obliterate the devil and therefore get rid of evil in the world?


MAHER: He will? What's he waiting for?



TAPPER: I know you're not a religious guy. In fact, you're -- you're an aggressive atheist.

MAHER: No, not aggressive. I've used it for comedy fodder, certainly. I made one I think really good movie in life called "Religulous" which was very funny and not mean-spirited about religion. But, you know, atheists, I -- I think that the idea that we are somehow aggressive or that we want to proselytize, that's what religion does.

We're the opposite. We don't care. We don't care. You believe whatever you want to believe. You can believe in the Spaghetti Monster, you can believe in whatever god you want, whatever myth you want; we don't care. We just want to be left alone and not castigated for it.

And I would like a little representation. I mean, the Supreme Court is now six and a half Catholics, okay? TAPPER: Who's the half?

MAHER: Half? One of them is -- I think Gorsuch is, like-- or one of them is, like, Episcopalian, or was raised Catholic, or -- but, I mean, that is not a good representation. Talk about diversity? How about what diversity that really matters, diversity of thought?

I think there's one or two people in the entire Congress.


TAPPER: Oh, I think there are more than that.

MAHER: That -- not-- that they would say it.

TAPPER: Exactly. Well, that's like saying, like, in the 1950 House, there were no gay people. Yeah, there were.

MAHER: Of course.

TAPPER: They just weren't out. They'd be thrown out with --

MAHER: I mean, I have a sneaky feeling Obama is not really -- super Christian like he said. You know, he used to say, well, the first thing in the morning, I get a scripture on my Blackberry. Really?

TAPPER: Well, somebody sent it to him, that's for sure --

MAHER: Somebody sent it to him, okay. Well -- yeah. I d -- I mean, he -- you know, he said, my mother was a humanist. I think that -- wink, wink, "humanist."

I mean, look -- you're--

TAPPER: Your dad was Catholic, your mom was Jewish.

MAHER: Yes, I was raised Catholic.


MAHER: I went through the rigmarole. I mean, I paid my dues, Jake. Okay--

TAPPER: Well, the only reason-- when I say -- I mean, I -- agnosticism makes more sense to me, the idea of like, look, I have no idea. That makes more sense to me than atheism.

MAHER: It's the same thing almost. I mean, you're --

TAPPER: Atheism is, there's nothing there.

MAHER: No. No.

TAPPER: It's all a ruse.

MAHER: No, no, you're wrong. TAPPER: No?

MAHER: Atheism means a-theism.

TAPPER: I have no beliefs.

MAHER: No, no, no.

TAPPER: In terms of god.

MAHER: The-ism is the belief in god.


MAHER: I preach the Gospel of I don't know.


TAPPER: That's agnostic is what that is.

MAHER: Again, you're splitting hairs. You're just -- you're just-- you're getting hung up on the terms. Even Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist, says, on a scale of one to seven, where seven would be total certainty that there is no god, I'm a 6.9, because we don't know.

TAPPER: Right.

MAHER: Because there are-- there are so many questions we can't answer, of course. And I allow for that.

I mean, I-- of course, we can't -- but the -- what an atheist says is, yes, there are questions we can't answer like, 'How did we get here?' But what we don't do is make up stories to say how we got here.

TAPPER: All of this is just a preface for me to say if your dad is out there somewhere watching this, I think he would be happy about you being on CNN. I think he --


TAPPER: -- I think he would. As a newsman, he would say, that's nice, that they're --

MAHER: You mean if he's watching over --

TAPPER: Whatever, I don't know how it works.

MAHER: We don't know how it works. But I doubt it's that.

TAPPER: Well, you don't know.

MAHER: We don't know -- exactly.

TAPPER: It's nice to think.

MAHER: Right. A 6.9. TAPPER: It -- but it doesn't make any sense for it just to be like we're here and then we're not, and then it's all just, "Poof." To me, it doesn't make any sense.

MAHER: But it seems to be the case.

TAPPER: There's no evidence to the contrary, but that --

MAHER: Right.

TAPPER: -- doesn't mean that this seems to be the case.

MAHER: Correct. That's --

TAPPER: But if we only use 10 percent of our brains, there's a whole 90 percent that we don't even know what's going on.

MAHER: Well, when you're dead, your brain's gone. It's being eaten by worms. So I wouldn't count on that.


TAPPER: After the break, forget politics, comedy, and live shows. Bill Maher reflects on one of his favorite hobbies.


TAPPER: So, you're a connoisseur of weed I think that's fair to say.

MAHER: I think it's very fair.





MAHER: You, know not a week goes by without someone asking me to get into the pot business with them. Don't get behind, they tell me. We can make a fortune selling marijuana or Billy buds or silly Billy's wacky tobacky (ph).



TAPPER: So you're -- you're a connoisseur of weed, I think that's fair to say.

MAHER: I would think it's very fair.

TAPPER: So what's the best weed you've ever smoked?

MAHER: Interesting you say that. It was -- I can answer that question. It was Acapulco Gold, and I've never seen it since. It was -- I was in college and I remember it came in a brick, like a brick, like it was --

TAPPER: This is in Ithaca, New York, at Cornell --

MAHER: Ithaca, New York, yes.

TAPPER: You got a brick of --

MAHER: Well --

TAPPER: -- Acapulco Gold?

MAHER: Well, you know -- at Cornell, that's how I got through Cornell, by -- by -- I mean, I was selling it.

TAPPER: Those are --

MAHER: You know, there was --

TAPPER: -- those are cold winters in-- in Ithaca, yeah.

MAHER: Yeah. I mean, I would never have gotten through college without that -- you know, money-wise. But --

TAPPER: Oh, selling it, you mean?

MAHER: Yeah. I was a -- let's just say I was ahead of my time because it's legal now. But it was this -- it was, like, pressed into this brick and it was gold. I've never seen pot that looked that way, and I never had a high like that, and I've never seen it again. But if anybody out there wants to turn me in the right direction, it'd be enormously appreciated.


TAPPER: But it wasn't all smoke at the bar. I also wanted to know who he looks up to most, his inspiration. And I surprised by his answer.


TAPPER: Who is your hero, other than Ben Carlin? Who is your hero? Who is somebody that you really admire and look up to?

MAHER: George Washington.

TAPPER: Seriously?

MAHER: Yes. Why -- why is that even --

TAPPER: It's, like, a very earnest answer. It seems--

MAHER: I know. But why would -- it's so funny that--

TAPPER: Because you're Bill Maher, to nod back to George Washington--

MAHER: No, but -- no, but now that he's like sort of semi-canceled too, you know, it's another thing --

TAPPER: That's not what I meant -- I just meant --

MAHER: I know. But it's --

TAPPER: Like I didn't expect you to -- like, if you had said Rutherford B. Hayes, would've been surprised too. I mean, like, I just -- I wasn't expecting -- I was expecting, you know, somebody in the world of-- that you live.

MAHER: Oh. I see. Well --

TAPPER: You know -- I would've been more surprised by Bob Hope than George Washington, I suppose --

MAHER: Bob Hope was not a good guy.

TAPPER: No, no. I know. That's why I'm saying -- that's -- that's why I'm saying.

MAHER: I mean, when I was a kid, it wasn't George Washington. It was like Johnny Carson. That's who I wanted to be. I wanted to be Johnny Carson and James Bond.

TAPPER: Why George Washington now?

MAHER: Well, I don't know if you heard, but he's the father of the country.

TAPPER: Right. Now -- and he was a great general also. Also the willingness to only do two terms, is that it --

MAHER: Exact -- well, that -- well, first of all, leading the rev -- keeping the country alive. You know, he only fought -- when he was the general in the revolutionary, he only fought nine battles. And he only won three.

He understood that he's not going to beat that British army. He just had to keep the army existing. He just had to keep them alive. So he was always running away.

And also, yes, then gave up the crown when he could -- could've gone the other way. And also the -- he was so prescient. He's the one who said political parties are going to be the death of us. Once we get into that kind of factional thinking -- and look at all these years later, that's really how it turned out.


TAPPER: You can catch more during Bill during "Real Time with Bill Maher" every Friday night at 10:00 p.m. on HBO. And his post show segment, "Overtime", which airs right here on CNN, Fridays at 11:30 p.m. Eastern.

I'll see you back here tomorrow on "THE LEAD".