"Bill Maher made a decision to get on television last night and sanitize and normalize the n-word", civil-rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton said in his Saturday sermon in NY.
"Just because Bill Maher is a liberal and our friend, you don't give him a pass", Sharpton said on his radio show Saturday.
While neither Maher nor Sasse addressed the slur in the moment, by Saturday afternoon, both had done so.
Rep. Yvette Clarke, a New York Democrat, called Maher's remark "completely unacceptable".
Sasse wrote Saturday that he wished he had immediately criticized Maher for using the term.
Sasse now says he regrets not speaking up when Maher made the joke.
HBO issued a statement on Saturday morning disavowing Maher's use of the racial epithet.
The comment sparked much outrage on Twitter, with some calling for Maher to be fired. "There are no explanations that make this acceptable".
There are no indications that HBO will fire Maher.
Sasse added, "The history of the n-word is an attack on universal human dignity". "Real Time" airs live and HBO is a premium cable channel that allows people to swear all they want, so the word was uncensored the first time around. It's therefore an attack on the American Creed. "Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment", Maher said in a statement. "We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show".