Georgia lawmakers and others are calling on Jason Spencer, a Republican state representative, to resign after his appearance in a segment on Who Is America? that aired on Sunday night. Spencer believed he was meeting with Israeli expert Erran Morad—really comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in disguise—to star in an anti-terrorism training video. At Baron Cohen’s urging, Spencer does an offensive impression of a Chinese tourist and takes an upskirt photo of a woman in a burqa to see if she is actually “a man with an explosive.” And that’s just the beginning.
Later in the segment, during a kidnapping scenario, Baron Cohen doesn’t even need to make a direct suggestion to convince Spencer to scream a racial slur multiple times. “In America, there is one forbidden word. It is the n-word,” he tells Spencer. “Now, I am going to be the terrorist. You have three seconds to attract attention.” Spencer then yells the n-word four times before Baron Cohen stops him, pretending that the word he meant was nooni.
“Got it,” says Spencer. The segment concludes with Spencer learning how to “intimidate” a terrorist with the prospect of homosexuality—by pulling his pants down and running at Baron Cohen, butt-first. At the very end of the Who Is America? episode, in a short bit not seen in the clip above, Spencer also says, “All you damn sand-niggers over in the Middle East, we are tired of you coming to America.” He then threatens to cut off their genitals.
Since being elected to the Georgia House a decade ago, Spencer has been no stranger to controversy, having once introduced a bill that would have effectively banned burqas and niqabs and seemingly threatening a black Democrat over the removal of Confederate statues. Spencer is currently serving his fourth term in office and has no chance of re-election, having already lost the primary to a young newcomer with no political experience. However, Georgia lawmakers, including Governor Nathan Deal, criticized Spencer’s behavior after the segment aired, and some are calling for his resignation before his term is up.
Before the segment aired, Spencer threatened to take legal action against Showtime and said that the deception was “exactly why President Donald Trump was elected.” He released a new statement after the segment aired, to a local Georgia television station, in which he says he will not resign.
In 2017 I received countless death threats in connection with my introduction of legislation involving the wearing of masks. The threats escalated to the point that my wife received threatening phone calls concerning her and my children. I was very afraid for my safety and the safety of my entire family. Then, on June 14, a gunman opened fire at members of Congress on a baseball field. I knew people on that field. Now, the fears I already had became more intensified as the reality of my family being targeted by a similar, deranged, would-be assassin became even more possible. I was in such a poor state of mind that my wife and I also undertook marriage counseling with a licensed therapist during this time.
Sacha Baron Cohen and his associates took advantage of my paralyzing fear that my family would be attacked. In posing as an Israeli Agent, he pretended to offer self-defense exercises. As uncomfortable as I was to participate, I agreed to, understanding that these “techniques” were meant to help me and others fend off what I believe was an inevitable attack.
My fears were so heightened at that time, I was not thinking clearly, not could I appreciate what I was agreeing to when I participated in his ‘class’. I was told I would be filmed as a ‘demonstration video’ to teach others the same skills in Israel. Sacha and his crew further lied to me, stating that I would be able to review and have final approval over any footage used.
I deeply regret the language I used at this request as well as my participation in the ‘class’ in general. If I had not been so distracted by my fears, I never would have agreed to participate in the first place.
I apologize to my family, friends, and the people of my district for this ridiculously ugly episode. Finally, there are calls for me to resign. I recently lost my primary election, so I will not be eligible to hold office next term. Therefore, I will finish the remaining five months at my post and vacate my seat.