Brow Beat

All These People Mad About Sacha Baron Cohen’s New Show Sure Are Doing a Good Job of Promoting It

Sarah Palin. She wears a bear pin on her blazer.
Sarah Palin.
Kris Connor/Getty Images

Sacha Baron Cohen, who has built a career out of interviewing unsuspecting guests while in character as one of his outrageous personas, has a new Showtime series premiering July 15. So far, the comedian has been promoting Who Is America? with videos parodying Trump University and asking Dick Cheney to sign a “waterboard kit.” He needn’t have bothered, though, because the best advertisements for the show so far are very public complaints by conservatives like Sarah Palin, Roy Moore, and Joe Walsh, all of whom admit to having being duped by his latest characters.

Palin described her encounter with Baron Cohen, whose humor she described as “evil, exploitive, sick,” in a lengthy Facebook post. Here’s an excerpt:

For my interview, my daughter and I were asked to travel across the country where Cohen (I presume) had heavily disguised himself as a disabled US Veteran, fake wheelchair and all. Out of respect for what I was led to believe would be a thoughtful discussion with someone who had served in uniform, I sat through a long “interview” full of Hollywoodism’s disrespect and sarcasm - but finally had enough and literally, physically removed my mic and walked out, much to Cohen’s chagrin. The disrespect of our US military and middle-class Americans via Cohen’s foreign commentaries under the guise of interview questions was perverse.

Here is my challenge, shallow Sacha boy: go ahead - air the footage. Experience tells us it will be heavily edited, not pretty, and intended to humiliate.

The challenge is to Cohen, CBS and Showtime: donate all proceeds to a charitable group that actually respects and supports American Vets. Mock politicians and innocent public personalities all you want, if that lets you sleep at night, but HOW DARE YOU mock those who have fought and served our country.

Roy Moore, who lost Alabama’s special Senate election last year, described being similarly tricked with an all-expense paid trip to D.C. to “receive an award for my strong support of Israel in commemoration of her 70th anniversary as a nation.” Like Palin, he issued a statement condemning “Sacha Cohen” for the trickery:

I don’t need Sacha Cohen to tell me who America is, but I can tell him that America is a proud Nation which sprang from humble beginnings and a strong belief in God, virtue, and morality.

As an American, I would never hide my identity and deceive others only to mock and ridicule them as this Showtime Series is designed to do. America is not only about being proud but about being brave and standing for what we believe.

I am involved in several court cases presently to defend my honor and character against vicious false political attacks by liberals like Cohen. If Showtime airs a defamatory attack on my character, I may very well be involved in another. As for Mr. Cohen, whose art is trickery, deception, and dishonesty, Alabama does not respect cowards who exhibit such traits! It’s been a long time since I fought for my country in Vietnam. I’m ready to defend her again!

Ex-congressman Joe Walsh was also “honored” by Baron Cohen’s team for his pro-Israel views, as he explained in a Twitter thread with the hashtag #BoycottShowtime.

As for Baron Cohen, he has not responded to any of the complaints. However, his character, “citizen journalist” Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., is not so reticent:

Ruddick’s Twitter account has been around since April and is virtually indistinguishable— maybe even a little less extreme—than your average MAGA account on the site. And to think, we might not even have paid attention to Ruddick if Palin hadn’t criticized the character to her more than 4 million Facebook fans.