Bill Maher has been an outspoken critic of the #MeToo movement.
The Real Time host has repeatedly argued that there’s been a cultural overcorrection—one that has ensnared people like Aziz Ansari and Al Franken (those he views as innocent).
So when Maher welcomed New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow on his HBO program Friday, the man who won a Pulitzer for helping to break the Harvey Weinstein story, the two tussled over exactly how far the movement has gone.
“Do you think there’s an excess in the movement that’s causing a backlash, that’s hurting it?” Maher asked Farrow, before citing the cases of Al Franken, Aziz Ansari, and Garrison Keillor. “Maybe we’ve gone too far here.”
Farrow didn’t agree. “I think our culture has been pretty good about self-regulating,” he said. “You mentioned Aziz Ansari. That blog about Aziz Ansari came out, and it was clearly a single-source narrative about a date gone wrong, and there was a debate about how far gone wrong it was. But I don’t think anyone saw that and said, oh, he’s Harvey Weinstein, this is a multiple rapist.”
“But he lost a lot. He’s not around anymore,” Maher shot back.
“Is that true?” asked Farrow, arguing that we’d have to ask Ansari exactly what he’s been up to since the questionable story broke. “I just think that that reporting was regarded as exactly as it should have been. People saw it for what it was, there was a debate about it, there was a lot of criticism of it.”
But Maher would not back down: “He suffered a lot from it,” he said.
“I would say that those cautionary tales have been pretty well-received by fellow journalists. Overall, what I’ve seen is that the vast majority of reporting that’s actually broken through has been very meticulous, has referred to very serious crimes, and this separate discussion of the gray areas and how far it should go, I think we’re sorting that through just as we should be,” said Farrow.
Then Maher pressed, “Al Franken, you think he shoulda quit?”
“You know, I do think that it’s correct to distinguish between these kinds of violations and these kinds of behavior, but I would also just make a point: this whole conversation, Bill, was under wraps for decades,” said Farrow. “There is so much pent-up anger and heartbreak and lack of accountability that I do think it’s understandable that it’s coming out in torrents right now.”