Bill Maher is a comedian. I like his jokes. It doesn't bother me when some of his one-liners mess with facts in order to get a laugh. That's what comedians often do: exaggerate in order to make a humorous point.
What irritates me about Maher is when his playing loose with facts continues from his opening joke-filled monologue to the mostly serious discussion Maher has with his two panelists.
Last Friday's show (April 14) featured Maher engaging in extended rants about transgender people and Trump's indictment. I didn't like what he said on both subjects.
Maher claimed that transgender women (who transitioned from being a man) were harming the rights of "real" women. I've never heard that from any of the women I know. The main argument presented for this assertion was transgender women competing in women's sports.
OK, this happens. Not often, but sometimes. Maher and the panelists, Katie Porter and Piers Morgan, spent quite a bit of time talking about a transgender woman winning a NCAA championship in swimming.
University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title after finishing first in the women’s 500-yard freestyle event Thursday evening.
Thomas pulled away in the final 150 yards to win in 4:33.24.
Thomas, who previously swam for the men’s team at Penn, has come to personify the ongoing debate on trans women’s participation in sports and the balance between inclusion and fair play.
This is a worthwhile debate to have. There do need to be rules governing transgender women who want to compete in sports where they may have a competitive advantage. However, Porter made sense when she said this should be left up to the organizations that govern women's sports.
And Morgan was wrong when he said, as I recall, that Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle by 50 seconds over the next fastest woman. Actually it was 1.75 seconds, not exactly a blowout. Plus, Wikipedia says:
In March 2022, she became the first openly transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I national championship in any sport after winning the women's 500-yard freestyle event. Thomas lost muscle mass and strength through testosterone suppression and hormone replacement therapy. Her time for the 500 freestyle is over 15 seconds slower than her personal bests before medically transitioning. Thomas's winning time of 4:33.24 was 9.18 seconds short of Katie Ledecky's NCAA record of 4:24.06. In other races, Thomas has been beaten by multiple cisgender women as well as by Iszac Henig, a transgender man not on hormones.
Further, the NCAA has instituted a transgender policy that addresses the problem of assuring fair competition between transgender and cisgender women.
At its January 19, 2022 meeting, the NCAA Board of Governors updated the transgender student-athlete participation policy governing college sports.
The new policy aligns transgender student-athlete participation with the Olympic Movement. The resulting sport-by-sport approach preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.
So it isn't true that transgender women are trampling on the rights of other women. Maher should educate himself about this before contributing to the transgender hysteria that, as Porter correctly noted, is endangering transgender people, who are subject to physical attacks at a rate much higher than their proportion in the general population.
Regarding Trump's indictment, this is a simpler Maher falsehood to address. First, he wrongly claimed that Democrats were after Trump because he had sex with Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress. That's untrue.
Hardly anyone cares who Trump has sex with, possibly excepting Melania, his wife. And Trump wasn't indicted by Democrats. He was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury that heard extensive testimony about false business records filed by Trump in an attempt to cover up the payment of hush money to Daniels a few weeks before the 2016 presidential election.
Maher blathered on at length about how Democrats were making the same mistake with Trump as Republicans did with Bill Clinton following his affair with Monica Lewinsky. But again, the charge against Trump isn't that he had sex with a woman other than his wife.
He's been indicted because he paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about their affair just before the election where his misogyny was a central focus, and instead of reporting this as a campaign contribution, Trump falsely termed it legal fees.
Bill Maher is a smart guy. So is his staff. So I can't believe that Maher didn't know the facts about Trump's indictment. He knew. Maher just chose to say stuff on his show that was false, in order to take a cheap shot at Democrats.
Just like he took a cheap shot at transgender people.