The HBO late-night host Bill Maher has come under fire for using a racial slur in an interview with a Nebraska senator.

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Maher, a US talk show host, comedian and political commentator who fronts HBO’s Real Time, used the N word while talking to Republican Senator Ben Sasse on his show shortly after 10pm.

The pair were discussing the boundaries between adolescence and maturity, and how adults in California still dress up for Halloween.

When Sasse said this did not happen in his state, Maher said: “I’ve got to get to Nebraska more.”

Sasse replied: “You’re welcome. We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.”

Maher then said: “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house n*****. No, it’s a joke.”

Both groaning and clapping could be heard from the audience members. Neither Maher nor Sasse addressed the comments further, and the conversation moved on.

According to the New York Times, the slur was not bleeped out when the episode was rebroadcast at midnight.

Maher’s remarks have drawn widespread condemnation on social media from prominent activists.

DeRay Mckesson, an activist for the Black Lives Matter movement, wrote:

*Warning: this video may cause offence.*

But really, @BillMaher has got to go. There are no explanations that make this acceptable. pic.twitter.com/K5XlEjekQ9

— deray mckesson (@deray) June 3, 2017

Jack Posobiec, an alt-right activist and commentator, said:

Racist Bill Maher must be fired and @BenSasse must be held accountable for his endorsement of the n-word

— Jack Posobiec ?? (@JackPosobiec) June 3, 2017

Journalist Oliver Willis wrote:

if you excuse bill maher's racism and islamophobia because he rips trump regularly, you're not any better than hannity shilling for trump

— Oliver Willis (@owillis) June 3, 2017

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Maher, who has hosted Real Time for 15 series and also heads up a comedy show called Politically Incorrect, has been criticised in the past for his comments. His comedy acts have been perceived as Islamophobic and he has drawn criticism for giving a platform to right-wing journalist Milo Yiannopoulos, who brands himself as a “supervillain”.

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