Bill Maher Defended Vaccines on This Week’s “Real Time”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was among the evening’s guests

April 27, 2024 3:28 am
Bill Maher and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Bill Maher interviewed Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on this week's "Real Time."

On this week’s episode of Real Time With Bill Maher, two distinct themes that have been in the air since Maher returned to HBO after the writers’ strike ended finally converged. The first was the esoteric group of politicians who have sought Maher’s endorsement — and appealed to his audience — in their quest for office. The second was the vaccine skepticism that’s come up a few times in Maher’s comments on the show. 

All of which is to say: the evening’s first guest was independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Kennedy entered the studio to loud cheers, prompting Maher to ask, “Did you stack this audience?”

But like many candidates before him, Kennedy may have expected a friendlier approach from Maher. Instead, the host opened with a relatively existential question, asking Kennedy why he was running. Kennedy’s response found him citing his dedication to free speech, which didn’t quite answer the question. And as the two men continued talking, it became more clear where distance between them existed on certain issues.

“You do say things like, ‘No vaccine is safe and effective.’ I don’t agree with that,” Maher said, bring up comments Kennedy had made in an interview. Kennedy argued that the quote didn’t fully explain his position. And while Maher stated his resistance to vaccine mandates, he also made it clear that he thinks that vaccines work. “People are alive today because of the vaccine,” he said.

Before their conversation came to an end, Kennedy cited a number of issues that he felt were important and were worth bringing up — none of which he’d brought up beforehand. Maher did say that he hoped that Kennedy would take part in this year’s presidential debates. 

It was a conversation in which the state of the nation took center stage. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this episode’s state of the nation discussion came towards the end of the panel discussion, which featured Don Lemon and Scott Galloway. Galloway argued that the nation’s young men had deep-seated issues and were at risk of succumbing to conspiratorial and misogynistic thinking — a theme he’d addressed a few times during the discussion. 

For his part, Lemon wondered if part of the issue was generational. “This is a society that we set up,” he said, speaking generationally. (Lemon and Galloway are in their fifties; Maher is a decade older.) “Many young people can’t even afford to own a home anymore. They can barely afford rent. They’re working in a gig economy, where they have to have two or three jobs.” 

“They can’t afford to have the American Dream,” he added.

Galloway seemed sympathetic to that position. “Everything we do here is a purposeful transfer of wealth and opportunity from young people to old people,” Galloway said. “They’re enraged and they should be.” It would have been interesting to see where that diagnosis of the nation’s ills lined up with that of the presidential hopeful who’d appeared earlier in the episode — but unfortunately, Kennedy wasn’t around for this week’s Overtime.

Bill Maher Debated the Generational Effects of Social Media
Jonathan Haidt talked tech on this week’s “Real Time”

Some other notable moments from this week’s episode:

  • Maher addressed former president Donald Trump’s many trials: “NBC has a new show coming on in the fall called Law & Order: Him Again?”
  • Maher, on bird flu spreading to milk: “If a crow fucked a cow, that bird has some serious game.”
  • There were some weird pivots in the early part of the panel discussion, when Scott Galloway and Don Lemon joined Maher to discuss the ongoing protests at campuses around the nation. And then Galloway said, “The species needs two things to survive. One, we need to enjoy sex…” 
  • Maher on The Golden Bachelor: “I so related to him and his age-appropriate relationship!” 
  • Galloway on the “catch and kill” practice that’s come up in the Trump trial, and its effect on free speech: “It’s a new level of mendaciousness.”
  • Lemon and Maher both seemed unsettled by the Supreme Court seemingly weighing a seismic ruling on presidential immunity.
  • Galloway also wasn’t fond of the current state of the Supreme Court: “The most damaging legacy of Donald Trump was that he had three Supreme Court nominees sit in front of the Senate and say Roe v. Wade was settled law.”
  • During New Rules, Maher pondered whether Tucker Carlson’s recent UFO talk was a sign of “adult-onset stonerism.” 
  • The bulk of New Rules focused on the current state of activism, and found Maher in “No, it’s the children who are wrong” mode. These segments are increasingly the most frustrating aspect of the show, largely because they allow Maher to conjure a rhetorical opponent with the broadest strokes, then criticize them to loud applause. There have been plenty of interesting moments on the show in recent months, including during this week’s episode; almost none have come at episode’s end.

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