Do Pictures Lie? Bill Maher's Lying About Time Covers From 'The Last Few Years'

On HBO's Real Time Friday, Bill Maher fought with conservative atheist S.E. Cupp and claimed the news magazines weren't hostile to religion, but were overflowing with religion coverage. His exaggerations were wild, more than just for comic effect:   

Are you kidding? Jesus or Mary is on the cover of Newsweek or Time like every other week. If Jesus had an office on Sunset Boulevard, and you walked down the corridor, he'd have his magazine covers on every wall. We did a mockup! There! This is the last few years.

If Maher or his underlings at HBO were really careful about facts about "the last few years," they'd know how far off this is: use the cover search on Time's website for "Jesus" and see how many Jesus covers since the 1900s ended: I count four. That's hardly "every other week."

There's "The Opus Dei Code" (April 24, 2006, not included on Maher's screen, since it might seem less than devout, slinging Da Vinci Code myths), "Secrets of the Nativity" (December 13, 2004), "Why Did Jesus Have to Die?" (April 12, 2004), and "What Jesus Saw" (April 16, 2001).

This is where Maher's claim about the gazillion Jesus covers "in the last few years" really lies. Maher's graphic included "Jesus at 2000" (December 6, 1999), "The Shroud of Turin" (April 20, 1998), "Jesus Online" (December 16, 1996), and "The Search for Jesus" (April 8, 1996). For most viewers, "the last few years" and "14 years" are not in the same ball park. 

The same championing-old-as-new pattern holds for other covers on Maher's montage: "Who Was Moses?  December 14, 1998. “Is The Bible Fact or Fiction?” December 18, 1995. "The Bible and the Apocalypse." July 1, 2002. Does Heaven Exist? March 24, 1997.

The search for Mary is even more depressing. I found just two covers since 1990: "Hail, Mary" is from January 21, 2005, but "The Search for Mary" (on Maher's screen, believe it or not) is from December 30, 1991. As in a child born when that magazine came out could vote.

But that's not the oldest Time cover on Maher's screen: That's "One Nation Under God" from three weeks earlier: December 9, 1991.

PS: There were only four Newsweek covers in the montage, and "What Would Mary Do?" is a nasty piece of anti-Catholicism from a few weeks ago. Their other three covers were from 2005 and 2006.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis