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Bill Maher has (almost) never found a famous man accused of misconduct that he hasn’t wanted to defend. The late-night comic, who once warned that the #MeToo Movement was creating a “police state” for sex, has defended MSNBC’s Chris Matthews after he was accused of sexual harassment (and mocked his accuser for good measure); has defended pal Al Franken, who was accused of nonconsensual touching and kissing; has defended former Trump crony Corey Lewandowski after he was caught on tape shoving a reporter; has repeatedly smeared Joe Biden accuser Tara Reade, whose lawyer later accused him of “recycling old rape myths”; and once argued that married men sexually harass women “because they have shitty sex lives.” There are many more examples, of course; that’s just a taster.
Which brings us to Friday night’s Real Time with Bill Maher, where the political satirist took it upon himself to defend Hollywood actor Armie Hammer, who stands accused of emotional and physical abuse by a number of women. According to Maher, “feminism” may be the real culprit here.
“I think we can talk about this in relation to where feminism is, because apparently, Armie Hammer has a predilection to tell his dates he wants to ‘eat’ them. And who wouldn’t want to be eaten by Armie Hammer? Come on,” Maher began. When one woman cheered in the audience, Maher proclaimed, “Exactly my point. Thank you—one honest woman.”
Hammer, the 34-year-old star of films like The Social Network and Call Me by Your Name, initially came under scrutiny when leaked Instagram DMs were released by the account @houseofeffie wherein he expressed cannibal, rape, and kidnapping fantasies to women. Unfortunately, some members of the media and public then began conflating the actor’s kinks with the actual allegations of coercion and emotional and physical abuse.
“Apparently this is something called ‘ethical human cannibal fetishism.’ No actual women were eaten in the making of this movie. They were just talking. They have his texts, where he was saying things like, ‘I want to take your rib out and boil it with barbecue sauce,’” says Maher. “We’re in such a porn-centric society—people have been watching really hardcore porn for so long that ‘spank you’ doesn’t really cut it anymore.” (So porn is apparently to blame for Hammer’s fetishes now, based on… what exactly?)
Maher then painted Hammer’s accusers as women who simply had a change of heart: “My point is that the women who are objecting to this now, who went out with Armie Hammer—willingly—and stayed in—willingly—and there wasn’t physical bad stuff happening, OK… we can all agree that’s intolerable—but if there wasn’t any physical coercion, why isn’t this just filed under, ‘That seemed like a good idea at the time—to let Armie Hammer eat me—but it really wasn’t.’ It seems like we don’t have any ownership anymore of our own choices.”
One of the Real Time panelists, TIME corresponding Charlotte Alter, countered that “there was some physical stuff” between Hammer and his accusers. “Some of the women have alleged that there was sort of some slapping around. One woman said he carved his initials into her body,’ Alter added.
“Did he tie her down and do that?” fired back Maher. “I don’t think so.”
It’s here that we should go over exactly what Hammer stands accused of. One of the first women to come out publicly and accuse Hammer of misconduct was Courtney Vucekovich, an entrepreneur and app founder, who told Page Six that the actor coerced her into an unsafe relationship, forcing her into “dangerous situations where I was not OK,” including sexual ones.
“He quickly grooms you in the relationship,” she told Page Six. “He kind of captivates you and while being charming, he’s grooming you for these things that are darker and heavier and consuming. When I say consuming, I mean mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, just everything.” Vucekovich alleges she had to be hospitalized for 30 days with PTSD she suffered after dating Hammer.
Then there was 22-year-old Paige Lorenze, who said that Hammer sent around her nude photos to other people without her consent, and emotionally manipulated her into letting him bruise her repeatedly, encouraging her to “show off” the marks and “be proud” of them. She maintains that Hammer “enjoyed hurting women, but used BDSM as a mask for this,” and told Page Six that she’s since been in trauma therapy due to the ordeal.
A number of other women have anonymously come forward to @houseofeffie, alleging that Hammer crossed their boundaries and that they experienced abusive behavior from him.
“Women approached me with their affair stories as we talked overwhelmed with grief for days and nights without sleeping or eating, with some ending up in the ER,” the person who runs @houseofeffie wrote in an Instagram Story. (Hammer, who’s been dropped from film and TV projects, dropped from his agency, and slammed by his estranged wife, has denied all the allegations.)
Cut back to Maher, who insisted on Real Time that all of the women accusing Hammer said everything was “consensual,” and that “I think he is exactly the guy in the book Fifty Shades of Grey, which was the most popular book ever, I think, with women… He’s this rich, handsome, movie star guy, and he’s got a kink.”
He then expressly blamed Hammer’s accusers—again: “If you’re gonna swim with the alpha sharks, it’s not gonna come out well in the end. Shouldn’t you know that? I mean, is it really that hard to figure out without the law getting involved?” claimed Maher, adding, “He’s a cad!”
Maher, by the way, has his own checkered past with women. The actress and activist Rose McGowan accused Maher fairly recently of harassing her when she was a guest on his show: “I was on your show Politically Incorrect in the late 90s—as the show returned from a commercial break, you leaned over to me & whispered in my ear, ‘my parents didn’t give me a good face, but they did give me a huge cock,’” she wrote, adding, “I could feel your hot breath on my ear as an image of both your hideous face & alleged big cock flashed in my mind. Both turned my stomach. I’ve always wondered what you say & do to the girls that aren’t famous?”