You’d be hard-pressed to find two people in entertainment with more conflicting views on politics than Bill Maher and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. So it only made television sense during his visit to The View on Tuesday, that they were positioned as close as uncomfortably possible to one another. In fact, uncomfortable was the key adjective to describe just about every moment of their tense meeting.
Mere moments into his visit, Maher, who stopped by to promote his new book, was halted by Hasselbeck (who didn’t appear on Wednesday’s installment of The View) to discuss a particular joke he made on his HBO show, in which he stated that upon Lara Logan’s return to the U.S. after her sexual assault in Egypt, America would send Hasselbeck in her place. [Update: Hasselbeck tweeted on Wednesday, "Comfronting someone who suggest ( even in jest) that you should be traded and gang raped for another woman IS NOT an ATTACK. #standup #women"]
Hasselbeck, who needled Maher (“Forgive this idiotic Republican for bringing this to your brilliant mind”), told him it wasn’t so much the joke at her expense that bothered her. Rather, she was speaking on behalf of women and that the joke itself wasn’t funny. (Because if there’s anything Hasselbeck cares about, it’s preserving the sanctity of comedy.) At one point, Maher explains he says these sort of things to stand on the edge for the sake of comedy, to which Hasselbeck fired back, “Thanks for being the hero.”
You can relive the interview in all of its painfully awkward, yet undeniably entertaining glory below, in which the two continue to hurl zingers at each other. Case in point: After Maher states “the Republican party doesn’t care about knowledge,” he and Hasselbeck catapulted into another verbal assault on one another, with The View co-host telling him “I actually feel smarter sitting next to you.” Maher’s rapid fire retort? “Really? I feel like I’m in high school sitting next to you.” Perhaps, but high school fights were never this good.
Maher, who later tweeted that it was “actually fun to be seen as the victim for once,” also visited The Late Show with David Letterman, where he discussed the incident. Maher, who earned a stunned reaction from the audience when he likened The View visit to being “abused… like a teenage boy at Penn State,” went on to say that while Hasselbeck “had some bug up her ass,” the two only “play like they hate each other.”