September 12, 2019

Robert Greenblatt, CEO
Home Box Office (HBO)

Dear Mr. Greenblatt,

“Fat-shaming doesn’t need to end. It needs to make a comeback.” – Bill Maher

With these few words, Bill Maher told kids on the playground it’s OK to bully other kids because of their weight, informed employers it’s OK to discriminate against people with overweight and obesity, and told other entertainers it’s open season on people at higher body weights. HBO is better than this.

We are contacting you today on behalf of the more than 65,000 members of the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), a national nonprofit organization representing individuals affected by the disease of obesity. During the September 6th episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, Mr. Maher discussed the topic of obesity. Unfortunately, during the “New Rules” segment, Mr. Maher greatly perpetuated weight bias and fat-shaming. While he did raise some important points regarding the severity of the disease, these were overshadowed by Mr. Maher’s uninformed and degrading comments about people with obesity.

Obesity is a serious, complex disease affecting more than 93 million Americans. The disease is driven by genetics, metabolic adaptations, psychosocial factors, environmental factors and more. It also is associated with a myriad of other conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and more. Along with these serious medical conditions, people living with obesity carry the burden of being constant targets of ridicule and discrimination in today’s society. The encouragement of fat-shaming can have a very harmful impact on individuals affected by obesity. Psychological effects include depression, anxiety and poor body image. From a social and physical aspect, weight bias can lead to social rejection by peers, unhealthy weight control practices and more.

While the OAC agrees that the disease of obesity needs to be a national topic, we need to ensure that individuals affected by it are not stigmatized or shamed. Studies demonstrate weight bias only worsens the disease of obesity. The OAC was fortunate enough to work with HBO on your landmark documentary “The Weight of the Nation” in 2012, which provided viewers with an educated look at the many facets of obesity. The OAC would like to offer our expertise once again to help Mr. Maher, and the writers of Real Time with Bill Maher, truly understand the impact of obesity and the harmful effects of fat-shaming.

We thank you for your time and look forward to your response and immediate attention to this serious issue.


Obesity Action Coalition