November 09, 2001 12:15 PM

“Politically Incorrect” host Bill Maher, who received a harsh White House rebuke by suggesting that some U.S. military actions were “cowardly” compared to those of suicide terrorists, says that he does not expect his late-night talk show to remain on ABC once his contract expires next year, reports Reuters. Maher, 45, pessimistically appraised his future with the Disney-owned network in an interview appearing in Talk magazine, noting that his Sept. 16 comment on the air has strained his relationship with ABC to a point that is probably beyond repair. “How could it be? Could we keep working together? Yeah, but there’d still be that tension and that conflict,” he says. “They’re not going to change and I’m not going to change. … After this whole thing I’m not expecting to be here after my contract runs out in 2002 — if we make it that long.” A spokesman for ABC expressed surprise at Maher’s published remarks but otherwise declined to comment. Maher’s precise words on that fateful broadcast were, “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building — say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.” The words prompted retailer Sears, Roebuck and Co. and delivery giant FedEx Corp. to pull their ads from the program. And a number of local affiliates dropped the show, including WJLA in Washington, D.C. White House press secretary Ari Fleisher publicly upbraided Maher for his comments.

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