Bill Maher, Chris Cuomo clash on Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special: It isn’t ‘transphobic’

“Real Time” host Bill Maher clashed with CNN anchor Chris Cuomo over the controversy surrounding Dave Chappelle’s Netflix stand-up special. 

Critics decried Chappelle as “transphobic” over remarks he made in “The Closer” supporting J.K. Rowling in that gender is based in fact, declaring himself on “team TERF” (trans-exclusionary radical feminist), causing a stir at Netflix among its employees and talent, though the streaming giant stood behind the special amid the uproar. 

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During an interview on Wednesday, Cuomo kicked off the discussion by claiming Chappelle has a “long history of going after trans people,” adding ‘the homophobia is not much of a push against him as what he says against trans people.” 

Maher, who declared himself as “Team Dave,” pushed back at Cuomo’s premise of the conversation. 

“Well, you say ‘going after.’ You use terms like ‘homophobia,'” Maher said. “I was speaking recently about ‘phobia.’ There’s a word that has traveled quite a bit from its original meaning. A lot of Mission Creep on that word… Phobia means an irrational fear… He’s not afraid of homosexuals. Or it’s not transphobic.”

“This trans stuff is very new. I don’t think he or myself or any other right-thinking person thinks there aren’t such things in the world as people who are trans, who are born in a body that doesn’t align with what their brain is telling them. That’s okay, but now we’re talking about children!” Maher exclaimed. 

The HBO star then shared an anecdote about a female friend who described herself as a “tomboy” growing up and how she’s convinced if she were growing up today, “they would’ve made me into a boy here in California.”

“So don’t put it into this category of ‘This is settled science.’ Anything that deviates from the one true opinion on this means you’re some horrible bigot or transphobic.’ That’s not what’s going on here,” Maher said. “And I don’t think Dave Chappelle is transphobic… It’s like- can we take a breath? Maybe we are going too far with the children part of this. You know, kids should not be really making decisions about their gender. I mean, Mario Lopez was almost canceled for suggesting that maybe three-year-olds shouldn’t decide their gender. This is not crazy stuff that makes you a bigot.”

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“But,” Cuomo responded. “His choice to make jokes about them- Now, this is the argument… that I don’t think he handled well, I will say that- you’re punching down at this group. This is a discreet minority. They’ve got a lot of problems of being targeted and hurt. You are a powerful voice. And you making fun of them empowers the people who want to hurt them whether you know that or not. Now that we’ve told you that, stop doing it. Is that a bad suggestion?”

Dave Chappelle: The Closer. c. Mathieu Bitton

Dave Chappelle: The Closer. c. Mathieu Bitton
(Mathieu Bitton/Netflix)

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Maher conceded Chappelle is “a little obsessed with this one issue” and he doesn’t know what’s in his head, but surmised that “I think as a Black man in America, he’s sees… nobody in America, except for the Indians, have had it anywhere near like the Black folks have had it in America. So I can see why that would get under the skin.”

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