WASHINGTON – More people in the world would live if Vice President Dick Cheney died, political commentator Bill Maher said, raising few eyebrows despite suggesting the death of the U.S. vice president would be a good thing.
During a visit to Afghanistan late last month, a suicide bomber detonated himself outside Bagram Air Base where Cheney was visiting. Several Afghans and a U.S. soldier were killed, but Cheney was unhurt.
During the Friday night broadcast of his HBO show "Real Time With Bill Maher," Maher and his guests, including Democratic Rep. Barney Frank and former Republican Rep. Joe Scarborough, debated the removal of comments from the HuffingtonPost Web log praising the idea of Cheney being assassinated.
Frank earned applause when he quoted bloggers saying the bomb was wasted when it missed Cheney. Maher asked the panelists whether it was wrong for blog host Arianna Huffington to remove the comments.
Quoting the blog, Maher said, "I have zero doubt that if Dick Cheney was not in power, people wouldn’t be dying needlessly tomorrow."
Asked by Frank if Maher believed that sentiment, the host replied, "I’m just saying if he did die, other people, more people would live. That’s a fact."
Last week's comments weren't the first to call into question Maher's freewheeling speech. His ABC show "Politically Incorrect" was cancelled shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when he said the hijackers were "warriors."
But the latest comment received few responses, being overshadowed by a remark by conservative commentator Ann Coulter made Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Coulter said she would discuss John Edwards' bid for the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination except "it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot.'"
The comment earned widespread derision, including from CPAC guests former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who called the comments "offensive"; and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said Coulter's comment was "completely inappropriate."
Edwards himself turned the barb into a rallying cry for fundraising and asked supporters to donate $100,000 in "Coulter Cash." While in Berkeley, Calif., the former North Carolina senator condemned the slur, but remained tight-lipped about his opinion of Coulter.
"I think its important that we not reward hateful, selfish, childish behavior with attention," Edwards told reporters. "I also believe that is important for all of us to speak out against language of this kind; it is the place where hatred gets its foothold, and we can't stand silently by and allow this kind of language to be used."
Asked about the free speech issues and balance of coverage of the two comments, San Antonio, Texas, radio talk show host Rob Thompson told FOX News that Coulter is "intellectual chewing gum ... a lady in a dress who likes to spit out things that cause a little bit of unrest, and she'll go away for a while. She'll crawl back in her hole and we'll hear from her in about six months."
As to Maher's remark, Thompson said, "Unfortunately some of that comment is true."
"If Dick Cheney wasn't in office today, I don't think there'd be as many people dead today. Apart from that, we have to realize that too many people think they have a right to say whatever they want. But they forget that there's a privilege that goes along with that right. Bill Maher likes to stretch that envelope. He likes to see how far he can go. This time he went too far," he said.