"Real Time" host Bill Maher took a victory lap on Friday on behalf of all COVID "dissenters" like himself throughout the course of the pandemic.
Following the revelations that U.S. government agencies like the FBI and the Energy Department are endorsing the COVID lab-leak theory and studies that show the effectiveness of natural immunity and the ineffectiveness of mask-wearing and lockdowns, Maher suggested a large swath of Americans should feel vindicated.
"I feel like the people who were the dissenters are looking pretty good. I was one of them," Maher said during a panel discussion. "I remember getting a lot of s--- from a lot of places."
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Maher scoffed at January 2021 Daily Beast headline that read "Bill Maher Pushes Steve Bannon Wuhan Lab COVID Conspiracy."
"Yeah, it was just Steve Bannon," Maher sarcastically reiterated. "Well, it was, you know, the former head of the CDC, it's the FBI, it's the Energy Department."
"We don't know. Like I said, we shouldn't politicize it. But would you agree that the dissenters are looking better these days?" Maher asked.
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Comedian and YouTube host Russell Brand agreed, saying dissent "is a great duty around all topics" deriding those who are "too desperate to shut down a conversation" which results in the "ironic" avoidance of science.
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"And the problem I feel that we had is that only experimentation was taking place that was beneficial to certain interests. Only arguments were being advanced that were beneficial to certain interests. Only regulations were being imposed that were beneficial to certain interests," Brand said. "The Wuhan lab leak theory being just one example- Fauci himself was seriously considering that this was a likely origin for the virus."
"How could it not be a possibility?" Maher wondered. "it's a lab in Wuhan where the virus started that studied the virus and was doing gain of function research on the virus. How could it not be?"
Liberal MSNBC analyst John Heilemann suggested he always thought the lab-leak theory was possible but blamed former President Trump for "politicizing" it.
"If you go back to that time, why do people seize on the notion that they'll reject the lab-leak theory? Because like everything else in COVID, Donald Trump politicized it from day one," Heilemann said. "His thing in that first two weeks was ‘kung flu’. And it was not just that it started in a lab, but then that the Chinese had released it on the world, that it was a bioweapon. This wasn't a leak. It was just not like there was an accident in the lab. The notion that was put forward by the administration in some case was there was political interest to make China the villain."
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"So everybody else has to take his bait like that and double down on stupid?" Maher pushed back.
"I'm not for stupid, I'm just gonna say hey, it got politicized. And you're right, it would have been better if we hadn't politicized it," Heilemann responded.
The HBO star went on to complain how tennis superstar Novak Djokovic is still not allowed to enter the U.S. to compete in a tournament because he's unvaccinated despite having gotten COVID. He quoted a tournament official trying to get Djokovic in the country saying "there doesn't seem to be an imminent danger."
"Imminent danger of a man playing tennis of a man who's had it twice standing alone, a sport where you're alone in the middle of a stadium outside in a country where everyone's already had it. ‘No imminent danger.’ This country is stuck on stupid. It just is," Maher exclaimed.
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Brand took a swipe at Heilemann for blaming COVID politicization solely on Trump, saying everyone needs to be held accountable.
"It seems that it's not solely the responsibility of Donald Trump that this issue has become politicized. When we take the issue of natural immunity, the efficacy of masks, it's difficult not to posit that perhaps increasingly a centralized authority becomes subject to inquiry that has never before face to because of the advancement of technology, because of our media ability to communicate, they are doubling down on authoritarianism," Brand said.
Brand continued, "Similarly, it's difficult I think, John, for us to condemn what we might regard as the right of politicizing this issue when we're just having a reasonable conversation about the way these regulations are rightly changing after a considerable amount of time… to sort of somehow cling to Donald Trump as the source of the problem. At some point, we're going to have to transcend these differences. Otherwise legitimate political figures that genuinely care about ordinary Americans are gonna find themselves lost in a party co-opted by financial interests and military industrial complex interests and unable to have a meaningful voice. Sooner or later, we have to translate those ideal."