Maher said that Charlie Hebdo was “very courageous.” And that while he thought Pamela Geller is “kind of a loon,” and the cartoon contest “obviously was a provocation,” “this is America. Do we not have the right to draw whatever we want?”
Former Rhode Island Senator and Governor and prospective 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee and ESPN commentator Will Cain agreed that people have the right to draw what they want. Chafee added that people who objected to PEN giving Charlie Hebdo an award also had the right do so, and that “this chasm between Muslims and the rest of the world, just we need too address it. It’s — tap down some of the divisions.” Maher interjected, “But not everything can be a moral equivalence, can it?” Chafee did make clear that you can’t prohibit people from drawing cartoons that might be offensive to some.
Maher then read from some of Gary Trudeau’s speech criticizing Charlie Hebdo, and accusing them of “punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings…Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voila—the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that, triggering violent protests across the Muslim world.” Maher then argued that “this assumes that we just have to accept that Muslims are unable to control themselves, the way we would ask everyone else in the world. To me, that’s bigotry, that’s the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
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