02/09/2013 12:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Real Time With the Ape and the Donald


Koko the Gorilla Files Lawsuit Against Bill Maher Over Comparison to Donald Trump

SANTA CRUZ, CA -- She was hoping that no one would take Bill Maher seriously when he suggested that Donald Trump was the "spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan" last month. But upon learning on Monday that Trump had sued Maher for $5 million dollars in the wake of the remark, Koko the Gorilla has gone apeshit.

"I have dedicated my life to speaking up for apes," a despondent Koko said in American Sign Language, a talent that has earned her worldwide fame. "And if Donald Trump thinks it was insulting to be compared to gorillas, imagine how we feel being compared to him. I mean, apes are at least somewhat evolved. If anything, we should be his descendants."

Trump's lawsuit is based on Maher's failure to deliver the $5 million he promised to pony up if Trump could offer proof that his parentage was not simian. While legal experts do not predict a likelihood of success, such details do not matter to Koko, who now worries that her efforts to save her species from extinction have been threatened by association to the hair-challenged billionaire.

"If the public believes that ape reproduction leads to people like, like, like this..." Koko wept at a hastily convened press conference, her fingers frantically forming the word "clownfish" (her customary sign for Donald Trump), "our cause is hopeless."

Koko has filed a defamation lawsuit, charging Maher with "reckless disregard for an entire species." Surprisingly, she has retained prominent First Amendment advocate Lloyd Abramson to represent her. "Even free speech has its limitations," Abramson explained, shaking his head. "You can't yell fire in a crowded theater, and you can't compare an ape to a jackass."

Koko's supporters were likewise shaken by the news of the Trump-ape association. Ape activist Janice Goodwin referred to Maher's comparison as a "backslide" from which the ape community is unlikely to recover.

"We've worked so hard to show that apes are better creatures than people like The Donald," she said defeatedly, "that they don't simply spend their days masturbating, throwing feces at whoever walks by, and beating their alpha-male chests. Now all of that hard work is undone."

During an exclusive interview with Koko at her secret sanctuary in the Santa Cruz mountains, the nimble-fingered gorilla did little more than sit in a corner of her cage, repeatedly signing the word "Seriously?" Consequently, her caretaker, Dian Folsom, often spoke for her.

"She feels singled out by what she perceives to be a vicious attack on all apes," Folsom said. "What's interesting is that she used to use the sign for 'angel' when referring to Mr. Maher in conversation because of his outspoken support for PETA. But after this verbal assault, she now uses the word 'poacher," and sometimes 'douchebag.' It's all so very sad."

Toward the end of the interview, Koko roused herself from her corner, maniacally waving a copy of Koko's Kitten, the popular children's book that tells the story of her real-life friendship with her adopted pet cat.

"I've tried everything I could think of to show our humanity, that apes feel, that apes understand, that apes are just like you!" Koko feverishly signed. "I mean, my best friend is a kitten -- a fucking kitten! How much more human do I have to be?" When a reporter tried to comfort Koko by remarking that her fans would not discount the 1,000 signs she has learned, simply because of a single comparison to Donald Trump, she pointed to a picture of Trump, signed the word "useless" and concluded the interview.

"This has all been so frustrating to us," lamented Folsom. "Although Koko's vocabulary includes the words for 'happy,' 'funny' and 'laugh,' the more nuanced concept of comedic sarcasm has proven difficult to teach." Folsom went on to say that, despite the efforts of highly trained sign-language specialists to teach her the word for "joke," Koko -- like Mr. Trump -- remains unable to grasp the concept.