Bill Maher took to his "Real Time" pulpit on Friday to make a bold defense against those who condemned Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen for saying "I love Fidel Castro" in an interview. Maher encouraged his viewers to take a harder look at whether Guillen was truly out of line for proclaiming admiration for the longtime Communist dictator of Cuba, who handed power to his brother in 2008 but remains a powerful figure in Cuban and international politics.
Guillen made the comments to TIME Magazine last week, but later claimed that they were mistranslated and apologized profusely after he was suspended for five games. But Maher felt that the apology and suspension were completely unnecessary. "If you say something Communists don't like, they take away your job and send you to a re-education camp until you come out with the one approved opinion," Maher said sarcastically. "We wouldn't want that here in America."
He pointed out that Castro's longevity in the face of over five decades of attempts on his life make him a "badass."
"Despite all odds and all logic, Castro still draws breath. He's the political equivalent of Keith Richards," Maher said to applause.
The HBO host conceded that Castro has "done some bad dictator shit," but he said he believes that relative to other dictators, Castro is hardly a threat, and that it's hypocritical for Americans to punish someone for expressing admiration when our government supports other dangerous leaders. He cites Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak and Chairman Mao as leaders that the U.S. had considered allies in the past.
He also mentioned a recently re-elected Russian prime minister, and American friend, as another example. "We don't stop talking to Vladamir Putin, and he poisons people at the dinner table," Maher quipped.
Although Maher's stance that Castro is a "badass" for evading America's attempts to end his reign may not be a popular opinion -- President Obama recently reaffirmed America's stance that Cuba is a "profoundly anti-democratic, authoritarian state" -- it seems likely that the dictator will not be a threat for much longer.
"The next time you see Castro, just remember what it is exactly you're afraid of: An 85 year-old retiree in an Adidas track suit," Maher said.