Bill Maher takes on Tim Tebow and feels the wrath
December 29th, 2011
05:48 PM ET

Bill Maher takes on Tim Tebow and feels the wrath

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN)– On Christmas Eve the Denver Broncos were getting destroyed by the Buffalo Bills* on the football field and comedian, liberal commentator, and religious provocateur Bill Maher couldn't help but tweet about it.

Wow, Jesus just f***** #TimTebow bad! And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is tebowing, saying to Hitler "Hey, Buffalo's killing them"

People quickly responded to Maher on Twitter and called him (in summary) a hell bound atheist piece of trash. Maher's social media jab was picked up by the media too and landed in newspapers, websites and TVs everywhere. Pundits and twitter users called for a boycott of Maher's HBO show Real Time, and threatened to cancel their HBO subscriptions.

The timing could not have been better for Maher. The new season of his show begins next month and the week between Christmas and New Years is a veritable wasteland for actual news. In a world where no publicity is bad publicity, Maher scored big.

Maher has long skewered people of all faiths as part of his act. In 2008, Maher starred in "Religulous" a documentary that poked fun at any and all religions.

For all the fury aimed at Maher for the Tebow crack, the long time atheist received comparatively little heat for his Twitter dig at Jesus the next day on Christmas.

Happy birthday to JC – but don't forget the other "gods" who have the same bday/bio: Horus,Mithra, Krishna, Osiris, Dionysus..makes u think!

It was insulting Tim Tebow, not Jesus Christ, that drew the ire of a nation.

"[Tebow's] public image is built on goodness and virtue," Patton Dodd said. Dodd is the author of "The Tebow Mystique: The Faith and Fans of Football's Most Polarizing Player" and the managing editor of Patheos.com. "His particular expression of Christianity, or Christian witness, is built on acts of kindness to the poor and needy and to strangers. It's not just taking a knee on the field and thanking Jesus after the games. I think a lot of his fans know that."

Dodd said fans likely felt defensive towards Tebow, but acknowledged an athlete so public about their faith could not viewed as untouchable.

"I think the difference here is what Maher said was particularly crass and crude and I think it's seen as aimed more ... at Tebow's fan base than Tebow," he said.

For those who said Maher crossed an unspoken line with the tweet, comedian Pete Dominick said no way. "Our job is to push the envelope. There is no line for us. We don't have a line. You can make a joke about my kids getting cancer as long as it's funny. It has to be funny. That's the only rule, that it's funny. We're supposed to be controversial we're supposed to be provocative, that's what our job entails."

"He's begging to be made fun of," Dominick said.

Dominick, who is also the host of Stand Up! with Pete Dominick on the POTUS Chanel on SirusXM, said Tebow's outspokeness about his faith makes him a prime target for comedians. "He goes out on TV and talks about his faith, he puts it on his eye black. We're going to choose to make fun of it. Always."

"I think it's the wrong thing to get upset about. It's a tweet. It's a predictable tweet from a guy who says these kinds of things and who has an audience who love him for those kinds of things," Dodd said.

For his part Tebow has not commented on Maher's tweet, keeping true to his formula of not engaging critics. Dodd said part of what makes Tebow such a great athlete is his ability to block out the noise and focus on the game of football. Requests for comment from Maher were not responded to by his publicist but Maher tweeted on Wednesday night:

All u J-freaks having a cow re my Tebow tweets pls go back to the much longer piece we did on 11/4 Real Time and have a proper heart attack

There Maher goes after Tebow in far more than in the 140 characters Twitter allows per post.

If Tebow and his Bronco teammates can win on Sunday they will make the playoffs.

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly had the Detroit Lions as the Broncos opponent. We regret the error and apologize to Bills fans everywhere. They have suffered enough this season.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (2,202 Responses)
  1. MNfree

    I lean in favor of selfless people, regardless of their beliefs. Maher's career relies on his selfish comments that appeal towards a very narrow and critical audience while Tebow puts himself on the chopping block every day and is seen consistently volunteering and being charitable. Strange how to be the good guy in the is country, you're always gonna get the boo-birds that make profits on dragging your reputation through the mud. If everyone was as bitter as Maher was, he wouldn't have a job. In that case, I hope he stays employed. Makes me realize just how far I'll never stoop for a courtesy laugh.

    January 13, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  2. WarriorNY

    I love how everyone is saying "what Bill Maher said was offensive" then go on to insult Maher in a more personal manner than Maher insulted Tebow. And you all are claiming to have higher values than Maher???

    January 13, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  3. Jean

    Tebow's 'public image' is just that - an image.

    He should keep his religion at home or at church, lest it comes to prove what a hypocrite he might be.

    January 13, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  4. dan

    who care's if he's religious. would this be a discussion if he was gay? his personal preferences have nothing to do with anything. It's a shame in our culture that the fact he is a good role model amongst a professional leagues of retards pulling the 'superman' move every time they do something, gets overlooked. would you rather your kid grow up to be tebow or a clown? It can't be argued that tebow is bad person and promotes bad things, so who cares???

    January 13, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  5. Stander

    First and foremost I would like to draw attention to the logical flaw made by the author when he compared the reaction people had to the two tweets. The Tebow tweet was vile mockery of someone who from all accounts seems to be a fine person whatever you believe about his pro sports prospects or his religious devotion. The X-mas tweet on the other hand was an atheist simply tweeting an actual thought provoking message, the second tweet simply did not have an ounce of the maliciousness to it that the first one had. Which is why people responded so differently.

    I am an atheist as well, and I find the Tebow tweet offensive and don't see much humor in it. Maher has been an embarrassment to a live and let live atheist like myself for some time with his hateful demeaning of those with whom he disagrees. I used to enjoy watching Bill Maher perform stand up and loved Politically Incorrect. However from my perspective it seemed like something in Maher snapped after Bush was awarded the election against Gore, and this hateful edge of his began to overtake his terrific knack for humor and logic. Then he got canned and ever since he has seemed to become more and more embittered and hateful with each passing year. That is just my take on the man from where I am sitting having never talked to the man, so on the other hand maybe this is who he always was. Whatever the case Maher pretty much just seems like a jerk most days now and when I am watching T.V.and Real Time comes on I try and give it a shot but always come away disappointed that my pay channel does not have a better choice of programming.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:30 am |
    • JMR


      January 13, 2012 at 4:40 am |
  6. vahjayjayaddict

    i'm a dedicated denver bronco fan but for those of you hoping that tebow will take you to the promised land, he's no Moses. tebow is a fullback who can hit a wide open receiver. nfl defenses are by their very nature not designed to accommodate such a freak. next year, if tebow starts, look for 3-4 defenses to negate his short yardage rushing capacitiy and a consistent good zone defense completely confuses him. his passing stats are abysmal, but with a little help from Jesus he has managed to win. he's a fine example of what a southern protestant should be, but Jesus has more than one prayer to answer. i'm hoping for a real QB next year.

    January 12, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  7. glyder

    regardless of tebow's religion,he does seem to be a lot classier than maher.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  8. Todd

    All I can think of saying to this is 'So? Why should I care what an atheist has to say about a religious football player?'

    January 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • dbtinc

      We need more people like Bill. Thanks Bill for standing up against the religionists.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • glyder

      why care what an atheist thinks about religion at all?

      January 12, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • joe

      Why would I care what an atheist has to say about anything?

      January 12, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • tony

      You and he may want to care about the Eye of the Needle.

      January 13, 2012 at 12:57 am |
  9. It's pronounced du-MAS

    Bill Maher is a du-MAS regardless of what he thinks about Tebow or Jesus Christ.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  10. Kayann

    When Bill and the rest of the Christian haters are on their deathbeds they'll be begging for forgiveness. Have your fun now Bill cuz someday you're gonna have to come face to face with the guy you've been disrespecting for fun and profit. The irony of it is that he will forgive you. Good luck.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      what if the opposite were true? what if youre wrong? You know, Santa and the Easter bunny were also false...

      January 12, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  11. Carol

    First of all the Anderson Cooper that I watch is not the one who would comment on this website.
    Second I am tired of all the Tebow Religion that is misplaced. He has a good arm and " God " has nothing to do with it.

    January 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • joe

      And you know this because you know everything, or because God told you?

      January 12, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  12. Vjs

    The other story hear is that Bill Maher calls himself a comedian. I can't remember laughing at anything he has said. It seems he has to resort to attacking others in order to get the attention he craves and that he believes insensitivity and poorly thought-out remarks equal humor. Maybe he and HBO think there is no such thing as bad publicity but I'll bet he wasn't laughing when they fired him for his remarks about 9/11.

    January 12, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • DrewNYC

      "I can't remember laughing at anything he has said."

      That's because you don't have a sense of humor.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  13. John H

    I'm not a Tebow fan–in fact, i always will pull for the other team because missionaries are one of the most hideous parts of society. Nonetheless I thought Mahr's tweet was tasteless and childish.

    January 11, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  14. Dontbow

    old billy bob must be crying his eyes out. lol

    January 11, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  15. gwf

    My only question was about what the other comedian said ... Pete Dominick. It seems sometimes that comedy as the "job" is talked about in such away as to have these pre-existent rules founded with the laws of nature. Obviously Pete & Bill choose an approach other comedians decide against ... so there isn't this standard of allowable Pete refers to. Controversial & provocative? Who cares ... that really isn't an essential aspect of comedy. The essential aspect is comedy, humor, something funny. Make us laugh, comedian. That's what you're there for.

    Then I wonder. How many laughing does it take? The whole room? The majority? A substantial number? Even one idiot in the back? And so it appears from the response that the crowds did not like Bill's tweet. Let's just say what it is. It wasn't comedy. It wasn't funny. It was just some personal comment from a guy that has a right to make personal comments, though his profession also happens to be comedian. And can't anyone expect that from him? Why are they following his tweets anyway if they don't like them. That seemed typical to me.

    January 11, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • OMG

      Bill loves to brow beat Christians and cults and weird stuff but he stays away from Jewish and Muslim for some reason!?

      January 11, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Response

      No, he makes many jokes at their expense as well.

      January 13, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  16. Anderson Cooper

    Myself and Bill Maher love to give weiner suckings to nig gers.

    January 11, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • todd in DC

      Let me guess. You're a christian. Right? Avid churchgoer too?

      January 11, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Jay Cross

      @Anderson Cooper. No reason to bring the "N" word into the fray.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • delo gu


      January 12, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  17. Kilgore Trout

    When Bill Maher is dying of aids he will be praying like a little school girl, like all good atheists do. Look at Brudnoy he was another one, made fun of religion all his life, than he got a bad load and started wasting away, yup, you got it, started praying on his knees like a baby. At least he wasn't on his knees doing something else.

    January 11, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • fintastic

      Joe 23:7


      January 19, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  18. CoreyJ.

    Bill Maher loves exposing religious crazzies for who they really are, and I applaud the man for it. Speak the truth!

    January 11, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • delo gu

      way to go bible say "do not stand on the street corner and pray, go behind clsed doors Matthue ????? look it up ya all thank you for your time

      January 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • joe

      John 3: 16

      January 12, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  19. PaulC

    We will have to burn Maher at the stake before he burns in hell..... but lets torture him a little first.

    January 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • DrewNYC

      Yeah! Because Christianity is a peaceful religi...wait what?

      January 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  20. Ivan Bial

    great job..Bill I love to tweak the noses of the religious nuts

    January 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • delo gu

      no violence please just on the field pay your buck to the big boys a sport any one else but toy butt

      January 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • joe

      The nuts are the ones without religion.

      January 12, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.