2003 clip of Bill Maher saying global pandemic would never happen is a Hall of Fame bad take

Sandra Salathe
Monday 03 May 2021 18:37
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2003 clip of Bill Maher criticizing potential of global pandemic goes viral (Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Electric Entertainment)

Some hot takes age badly, others age like milk.

And, after more than a year of living with the worst pandemic for a century, a newly unearthed clip from Bill Maher has us rolling our eyes.

During a 2003 taping of his HBO series, Real Time With Bill Maher, the host is seen belittling SARS, Monkeypox, West Nile virus (WNV) and Avian influenza during a segment of New Rules titled “Unchained Malady”.

“Stop scaring us with diseases we will never get,” Maher says confidently. “First it was SARS, Monkeypox, West Nile virus (WNV) and now Asian bird flu, which doesn’t scare me because I’m not a sparrow in Thailand.”

Maher concluded, “Mysterious Asian diseases don’t come knocking on your door.”

Sure they do. It’s called Covid-19 and it kills around 3.2 million people worldwide in the process.

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The clip was posted on Twitter by Pessimists Archive, which typically collates some of the worst takes from people who predicted that now-popular technologies would never take off.

But if anything, Maher’s prediction bucked the trend of posts on the account, by being overly optimistic, rather than pessimistic.

Other claims made by Maher in the past have also aged terribly.

In another early 2000s clip shared by Pessimists Archive, he mocked the very concept of camera phones, saying: “I don't care that your phone takes pictures - it's a phone, not a Swiss Army knife. Great, now the annoying camera buff and the annoying cell phone p***k, can merge as one guy.”

Then, seemingly predicting the iPhone a few years before its release, he added: “Hey if you can figure out how to make that camera phone play country-western music real loud, we can call it a perfect storm of assholes.”

He roundly mocked social media too, pre-Facebook, quipping: “There's a reason you don’t talk to people for 25 years - because you don't particularly like them.

“Besides, I already know what the captain of the football team is doing these days ... mowing my lawn.”

Even game streaming site Twitch didn’t escape his sharp tongue: “I just think people watching other people playing video games is a waste of f*cking time.” The founders won’t be losing sleep - it’s reportedly worth around $15bn.

But despite his terrible 2003 prediction, Maher doesn’t seem chastened. In April, Maher took aim at the media, claiming negative coverage of the virus is what has led to Democrats being so misinformed.

“The U.S. national media reported almost 90% bad news. Even as things were getting better, the reporting remained negative,” Maher said. “When all of our sources for medical information have an agenda to spin us, yeah, you wind up with a badly misinformed population, including on the left.”

He’s even railed against vaccines, in the past, something that’s particularly sensitive as the US grapples with vaccine hesitancy.

In 2009, during the swine flu outbreak, he said of a potential vaccine drive: “If u get a swine flu shot ur an idiot.”

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