The comedian Bill Maher says he still plans to address the December commencement at the University of California at Berkeley. Thousands signed a petition calling for the university to rescind the invitation because of statements Maher has made about Islam, and the student group in charge of commencement invites tried to take back its request that he speak. But Nicholas B. Dirks, chancellor at Berkeley, said that the university would stand by the invitation, and that to do otherwise would violate important principles of free speech. Throughout a week of intense debate, Maher was silent except to say he would address the issue Friday night on his show on HBO.
In a segment on that show, he said that he is still planning to go to Berkeley and that he isn't a bigot, and he added a few politically incorrect jokes. He expressed disappointment with students objecting to his appearance and asked who "told you that you only had to hear what didn't upset you." But he also pledged that he would make his commencement speech relevant to students, and try to keep the focus on them. Maher urged college students nationwide to weigh in against blocking speakers. "Please, weigh in on this," he said. "My reputation isn't on the line. Yours is."
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