Tapper Injects Newsy Sobriety into HBO’s Maher

Going on a show like HBO’s “Real Time” with Bill Maher can’t be easy for a news reporter like ABC News’s White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, especially in the wake of NPR‘s termination of Juan Williams for offering a strong opinion. Of course, opinions aren’t acceptable because of where Tapper works. But it’s more a matter of having good sense – there are no formal ABC rules about it. Tapper appeared on the “Real Time” Friday night alongside Film Director Rob Reiner, Eighteen Acres author Nicolle Wallace. Other guests included actor George Clooney and Wasilla Mayoral hopeful Levi Johnston. Tapper stuck to facts, minimal laughter and no cussing. He had his hands folded in front of him.

Maher brought up Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas‘s wife, Ginny, and her recent call to Anita Hill. While Maher said Ginny “drunk dialed,” Wallace cracked, “Still drunk.” Tapper said he phoned Hill, who played the recording. “Ginny Thomas sounded sober,” Tapper said.

In a later discussion, Tapper went into a pretty lengthy explanation of how Congress’s lame duck session was likely to include an attempted repeal of POTUS’s health care bill. “That’s a good point,” an unenthused Maher remarked. To which Tapper shrugged and threw up his hands. “What?” Maher asked. Reiner said, “It’s your show, you can do whatever you want.” Maher replied, “I’m here for them,” he said, pointing to the audience. “They get bored in a second and turn to something else.”

Tapper wondered aloud if what he had said was boring. Reiner joked, “I was riveted. I was hanging on every word.” Tapper laughed and conceded, “Let’s go back to Long Dong Silver,” referencing an earlier joke Maher had made about Thomas.

“No,” declared Maher. “Let’s go to the First Amendment.” (His favorite topic as of late: Delaware U.S. Senate hopeful Christine O’Donnell.)

Tapper told FishbowlDC: “Going on a show like that, I have to figure they know I’m there to mainly offer facts and maybe a little analysis, but not to have opinions. Obviously they weren’t wanting for opinions!”

The news reporter said backstage and off air he chatted with Clooney about the Sudan, Reiner about Prop 8, caught up with Wallace and talked with Maher.