Colbert, 53, began by praising the diverse list of nominees at the awards show, noting several African-American actors including Samira Wiley, Uzo Aduba, Jeffrey Wright and Viola Davis. Colbert then jokingly added an unexpected name to his list: Maher. “I assume he’s black because he’s so comfortable using the n-word,” the CBS late-night host quipped.
Maher, 61, sparked outrage in June after using the racist slur on his HBO show, Real Time, during a conversation with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. Sasse had asked, “Would you like to come work in the field with us?”
“Work in the fields?” Maher replied. “Senator, I’m a house n—–.” (Maher was referring to African-American slaves who were forced to work in the homes of their owners versus those who were forced to do agricultural work.)
Maher later apologized, in a statement and again on-air, in the midst of a media storm kicked off by his comment. “It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t said in malice if it brought back pain to people,” he said on his show. “And that’s why I apologized freely, and I reiterate it tonight. That’s sincere. I’m not that big of an a–hole.”
The 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by Colbert, are airing live on CBS from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.