National media attention on efforts to quarantine nurse Kaci Hickox took a humorous turn Friday night when comedian and political commentator Bill Maher tackled Maine’s ongoing Ebola concerns several times during his HBO show, including a lively discussion with U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine.

One of three panelists, King praised a judge’s ruling Friday that removed some restrictions from Hickox, who returned to her home in Fort Kent this week after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone in West Africa. Gov. Paul LePage’s administration has been trying to quarantine her ever since, though she has tested negative and shown no symptoms of the disease.

“This is a case where the system actually worked,” King said when Maher raised the issue at the start of the panel discussion on the hourlong “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

“The cool thing is, we have this judge, Charlie LaVerdiere, who listened to the science,” King said. “The state wasn’t able to just reach in and say, ‘You’re locked in your house.’ The big danger here is that we create a disincentive for people to go over and help with this thing.”

LaVerdiere, the chief judge of the Maine District Court, issued new restrictions Friday that require Hickox to allow direct active monitoring of her health, coordinate travel with public officials to ensure uninterrupted monitoring, and alert health officials if she develops symptoms.

The ruling doesn’t ban Hickox from leaving her house or being in contact with other people. The new restrictions will be in place until Tuesday, when a formal hearing is scheduled on the state’s petition for greater restrictions.

King told Maher he believes the United States must move from a period of fear to a period of education and let the response to Ebola be proportionate to the science. He recalled the early years of the AIDS crisis when people mistakenly feared they could get the disease from door knobs, mosquito bites and toilet seats.

King acknowledged that Ebola is dangerous, “no question about it,” but he pointed out that 20,000 Americans die each year from the flu, while only one person has died in the U.S. from Ebola.

Maher’s opening monologue was dominated by comments about Hickox and Maine. Maher, whose weekly pay-cable show is seen by about 4 million people, included some familiar off-color jokes about Bangor and bears and focused on the fact that it was Halloween.

Maher called Hickox “heroic” for the volunteer work she did to help stop the disease in Sierra Leone. He said it was great that the judge allowed Hickox to self-monitor, “because that’s what she was going to do anyway.”

Maher brought up the bicycle ride she took with her boyfriend on Thursday.

“She’s the type of person you could only ever find in America: a selfless humanitarian who also has narcissistic personality disorder,” Maher said, drawing applause and hoots from the audience.

Maher then reminded the audience that Ebola “has still killed fewer people in America than O.J.”

Maher returned to Hickox and King during his closing “New Rules” segment.

“Nurse Kaci Hickox has to explain one simple question: If you’re so non-contagious, how come your senator is sitting 3,000 miles away here with me?”

The audience erupted with whistles and cheers as King and Maher laughed, high-fived and clasped hands.

“You didn’t meet her, did ya?” Maher said, looking at King with mock concern before he continued.

“And government officials must calm down and look at this logically,” Maher said. “It’s Maine. The best quarantine policy is there’s nowhere to go anyway.”

“Aw, come on,” King said.

“I’m just kidding,” Maher said. “I love Maine. I was in Portland this year.”


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