"This is the world we're in. You step in it, make a mistake, off with your head," Whoopi Goldberg said at the top of the show, after explaining how some are asking for Maher to be fired from HBO.
"I just think it's a word that has way too much power and we've given it way too much power because it's had the ability to stop us in our tracks," Whoopi added, pointing out how he called himself the word and didn't fling it towards anyone else.
Though Goldberg didn't go in on Maher, Sunny Hostin took a more personal approach to the situation, condemning the use of the word anywhere and by anyone.
"I use my father as my beacon for so many things. He told me a story about how was with my mom in Georgia and the KKK ran them out. My uncle who was in the army had to stand in front of the home they were in with as shotgun because they threatened to kill that 'N-word that was in the house,'" she said. "My father recounted that story to me with tears in his eyes and he said 'that is an evil, ugly, nasty word and we are never going to use it in this house. You will never use it and your children should never use it' and I have never uttered the word in my 48 years of living."
"I don't think anyone should use it," she continued. "I think it's time to retire that word, it comes from such a painful time. I understand the argument that young people have reclaimed it. I think it's time for everyone to not say it."
Joy Behar didn't want to "deflect" from what Maher said, but she wanted to put the situation into "perspective."
"Not to deflect from what he said, but Donald Trump and his people that ran his real estate agency, they actually practiced racism, they discriminated against black people in housing," she said. "To me, that is a much more egregious sin than saying any kind of word. Let's not lose perspective about comedians and words and things comedians are saying. There seems to be an assault on comedians."
She then brought up Kathy Griffin's own controversy, saying there's "a lot of overkill going on."
"She made a mistake, she did something stupid, she said she's sorry and now they're piling on her like she's Charles Manson," Behar added, "Get over it."
When Jedediah Bila said she didn't think Maher was "trying to offend," Goldberg agreed, saying "because he wasn't throwing it at anybody." Bila then asked how to "de-tooth" the word.
"Here's how you de-tooth it: When you hear it, see who's doing it," Whoopi said. "If people are not doing what they were doing at your dad or my mother and her entire family, if they're not doing that and they're singing somebody's music, you say 'OK, I get it.'"
"I thought what somebody should have said [to Maher] was 'It's about time you realize you one too!" she joked.
Maher has since apologized for his remarks. "Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I'm up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn't have said on my live show," he said in a statement. "Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. The word was offensive, and I regret saying it and am very sorry."