"For black folks, that word, I don't care who you are, has caused pain," Maher said. "It doesn't matter that it wasn't said in malice, if it brought back pain to people, and that's why I apologized freely and I reiterate it tonight. That's sincere. I'm not that big of an asshole."
On last Friday's Real Time, Maher called himself a "house nigger" during a conversation with Nebraska senator Ben Sasse. "The comic mind goes to a weird place some times," Maher said of his controversial response to a Sasse quip.
Maher's latest apology came during a conversation with Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, who "schooled" Maher over the host's use of the racial slur, which was an "unconscious reflex… that grows out of a culture that reflexively identifies that particular word with some heinous acts in history."
"We're all evolving. We're all who we are," Maher said. "By the way, this happened once. A guy said a weird thing, I made a bad joke. Yes, it was wrong and I own up to that. But it's not like I made a career of this… It happened, and it was wrong. People make mistakes, we're all sinners."
Maher added, "I just don't want to pretend this is more of a race thing than a comedian thing. Comedians are a special kind of monkey." The host also joked that Kathy Griffin "owes me a fruit basket" for knocking her off the front page following her own controversy.
Later in the show, Maher welcomed Ice Cube to the panel, where the rapper took the host to task for his "transgression." Earlier in the week, Ice Cube said of Maher's remark, "You gotta know when to shut up."
"I knew you was going to fuck up sooner or later," the rapper said Friday. "I love your show, but you been bucking up that line a little bit. You got a lot of black jokes… Sometimes you sound like a redneck trucker."
Ice Cube then asked, "What made you think that it was cool to say that?"
After Maher reiterated what he told Dyson, Ice Cube said, "I accept your apology, but I still think we need to get to the root of the psyche, because I think there are a lot of guys out there who cross the line because they a little too familiar… or is guys who had a black girlfriend or two that made them some Kool-Aid now and then think they can cross the line, and they can't."
Ice Cube added that the slur is "like a knife. You can use it as a weapon or you can use it as a tool. It's been used as a weapon against us by white people, and we're not gonna let that happen again by nobody, because it's not cool. It's in the lexicon, everybody talk it, but it's our word now. You can't have it back."
"When I hear my homies say it, it don't feel like venom," the rapper said. "When I hear a white person say it, it feels like that knife stabbing me, even if they don't mean it."
Ice Cube talks Bill Maher racial slur. Watch here.