Andrew Cuomo Sparred With Bill Maher on This Week’s “Real Time”

The former governor and Melissa DeRosa had an intense conversation on his legacy

October 28, 2023 1:41 pm
Bill Maher on "Real Time"
Bill Maher talked with Andrew Cuomo and Melissa DeRosa on a new "Real Time" epsiode.

Watching Bill Maher interview someone can be an interesting proposition. When it’s someone he largely admires — say, Eric Adams or Elon Musk — the interview can sometimes veer into a litany of accomplishments, with Maher and his guest agreeing on most things that come up. As his interview with David Mamet last year demonstrated, Maher remains capable of posing incisive questions — but it’s an approach that doesn’t come up much on Real Time’s longform interview segment.

That was not the case this week, however. Maher was joined by former Andrew Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa, there to promote her new book What’s Left Unsaid: My Life at the Center of Power, Politics & Crisis, as well as DeRosa’s former boss, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

It’s not hard to see why DeRosa and Cuomo would agree to appear on the show — Maher has been sympathetic to the case of another Democratic politician who left office in the wake of a #MeToo scandal, Al Franken. And, as Ron DeSantis did when he appeared opposite Maher on Real Time last month, both DeRosa and Cuomo took a rhetorical approach that seemed geared to appeal to Maher — including digs at perceived left-wing overreach.

“The problem with the #MeToo movement, in my opinion at this point, is that we’ve lost our footing,” DeRosa said. “Rape is the same as kissing someone on the cheek.” While Maher did concede that Cuomo and DeRosa had some grounds for frustration, he also alluded to he and his staff looking over the points made in DeRosa’s book — which included a defense of casual physical contact. Maher observed that one of these things was, as the saying goes, not like the others.

“I’ve got to stop you at ‘stomach,’” he said. “You almost had me with some of these other lines, but — don’t touch my stomach.” Maher went on to argue that Cuomo “didn’t get the memo,” and observed that older generations are more comfortable with physical contact than their younger counterparts.

“I got it intellectually,” Cuomo said, “but it can be carried to an absurd extent.”

Maher also critiqued Cuomo for comments he’d made during the pandemic. “On TV, when you were taking a COVID test in May of 2020, you said, ‘Nice to see you, doctor. You make that gown look good.’ Don’t do that shit,” he said.

The conversation also turned to some of Maher’s favorite recurring subjects, including the 2024 election. Later in their chat, Maher asked Cuomo, “Would you be running against [Biden] right now?” “Probably,” Cuomo said. “Even with him sitting in office?” Maher asked. “Probably,” Cuomo replied. 

That said, Cuomo didn’t offer much of a blueprint for what his theoretical primary challenge would have looked like, other that stating his belief that tent cities are a problem and that he doesn’t think highly of the slogan “defund the police.”

In commenting on Cuomo’s downfall and the events described in DeRosa’s book, Maher observed, “Both generations are giving away their flaws.” He would — not surprisingly, given the tone of recent episodes — return to his frustration with younger generations later in the show. But at least in this interview segment, Maher took the conversation somewhere unexpected.

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Some other notable moments from the episode:

  • Maher on new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson: “Loves Jesus, hates democracy.”
  • Maher on covenant marriage: “It’s for people who hear ‘til death do us part’ and think, ‘I need something stronger.’”
  • This episode’s panel consisted of NYU professor Scott Galloway; Bustle’s Jessica Tarlov. In it, Maher returned to his concept of the “slow-moving coup,”  with respect to Johnson’s election as Speaker of the House. Neither panelist disagreed, with Galloway calling Johnson “David Duke Lite.” 
  • As alluded to above, there was plenty of disdain for the younger generation, including the conversation with Cuomo and DeRosa; the mid-panel segment; and the second half of the panel discussion where Maher and the panelists were critical of some of the discourse over Israel and Gaza. (Tarlov, at one point, used the phrase “the TikTok/Hamas vote” to describe a segment of the electorate.)
  • Maher quizzed Galloway regarding his recent comments on Ozempic and related drugs having a larger societal impact than AI.
  • Maher on the first Democrat to announce a primary challenge to Joe Biden: “I love Dean Phillips because no one knows who the fuck he is, and that’s good.”
  • Credit is due to whoever on the Real Time staff found a photo of what appears to be the least appetizing fried calamari imaginable.
  • Maher on condiments: “Stop making your hot sauce about my ass.”
  • The bulk of New Rules found Maher inveighing against governmental red tape, and the delays that they can cause — notably for environmental projects. He also cited the infamous example of a public toilet that cost $1.7 million. (The cost ended up being reduced, but the overall point stands.)

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