A few months ago, conservative talk show host Tomi Lahren had a surprisingly civil chat with Trevor Noah on “The Daily Show.” On Friday, Lahren appeared on another liberal talk show — HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher.” How did the discussion go? It depends on whom you ask.
In many ways, it makes sense that Maher would host Lahren. He’s a staunch advocate for free speech and frequently hosts guests who disagree with him. (One of those guests is conservative pundit Ann Coulter. Maher told the New York Times in 2009 that they were good friends.)
On “The Daily Show,” Lahren and Noah went head-to-head on Donald Trump and Black Lives Matter for more than 26 minutes. Lahren got far fewer words in on “Real Time,” where she was joined by fellow panelists Republican strategist Rick Wilson and Missouri Democrat Jason Kander, who served in Afghanistan. (Watch Kander and Lahren debate Maher’s other guests on ‘Overtime’).
Maher kicked off the panel by discussing the Trump administration’s efforts to overturn regulations enacted by former president Barack Obama using the Congressional Review Act. Congress has already acted to overturn a rule designed to prevent coal-mining companies from dumping debris into streams and a regulation requiring more extensive background checks for gun purchases by Social Security recipients who have been deemed mentally incapable of managing their own affairs.
“This looks like special interest stuff. How does letting a coal company dump the sludge in the river help the little guy?” Maher asked, citing Trump’s campaign rhetoric.
“The forgotten American, I would say,” Lahren answered. “Because the coal industry has been attacked. Obama went to war against the coal industry and they saw massive declines, and they were on their way out the door. You look at these … little towns. Look at the American worker. We need to take a minute, take a step back and realize. …”
Maher interrupted her. “Even if we allowed coal, why allow the company to dump the sludge in the river?”
“It’s a more complex issue than that, though,” Lahren said. “And some of this regulation was doubled-up upon.”
Maher also brought up the deadly Yemen raid that left a Navy SEAL and several civilians dead.
“It was a huge f—up,” Maher said. “Now I’m not saying that’s all Donald Trump’s fault, although it doesn’t look good.
“But here’s the thing,” Maher continued. “If it was Hillary Clinton, this would be the new Benghazi.”
“So we shouldn’t talk about intentions,” Lahren said.
“Intentions?” Maher asked.
“You’re right — on the left, and the right. We shouldn’t,” Lahren said. “I would also agree that if Hillary did this, you’re right, there would be a backlash from those on the right and they would say it was the second coming of Benghazi, and I agree with you. So we should stop talking about intentions and just go to the merit of the thing.”
So, Maher asked, would Lahren also agree that it was “bulls—” for Republicans to blame Benghazi on Clinton?
“No, I’m saying it would have been unfair to peg this on Hillary. It would be unfair to blame it on Trump,” Lahren said.
Maher tried again. “It was bulls— to blame Benghazi on Hillary — we know that, right?”
“No,” Lahren said. “That’s another discussion to be had.”
Kander agreed that Clinton would have faced harsher criticism if she had been the one to carry out the Yemen raid and said that the people who died in Benghazi were used “as political chess pieces.” Kander suggested that Lahren probably didn’t know the names of the Americans who died in Benghazi. She did — and named them all.
“Good for you,” Kander said.
“You two have just proved absolutely nothing,” Maher said.
The harshest criticism against Lahren actually came during a segment with Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson.
“Say there was a black man president and he had three wives and children by three wives and he was sort of erratic as [Trump] is and belligerent as [Trump] is,” Maher said. “Do you think a black person could act like Donald Trump and be president?”
“He’d be in prison,” Dyson said.
“Do you think if a black person acted like that it wouldn’t matter?” Maher asked Lahren.
“I don’t think it would matter. No,” Lahren said as the audience erupted in laughter.
Maher cited a poll that said two-thirds of Republicans believe racism against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against minorities. He asked Lahren if she agreed.
“I think there’s certainly an element of division that needs to be addressed, yeah, as evidenced at UC Berkeley the other night,” she said. “There’s certain issues in society where we’re becoming more divided, and it’s not just blacks against whites or whites against blacks, it’s all of us against each other. And it’s toxic.”
“But that’s not what I asked,” Maher said.
“As we sit here today, I do think that there is an element of racism against white individuals, I do,” Lahren said.
Wilson took the opportunity to weigh in here: “Since I’m a conservative, but not a Trump person, let me just say this. That’s absurd. F—ing crazy.”
This post has been updated.