Sacha Baron Cohen’s Showtime series, “Who Is America?,” caused a stir before its premiere last month, as several Republican politicians felt the need to get ahead of the show in explaining how Cohen “duped” them to appear on it.
The former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, the former congressman Joe Walsh, and the former US Senate candidate Roy Moore were among those who preceded the show’s premiere with statements explaining their appearances on the series and criticising Cohen.
In the show’s first season, Cohen interviewed former vice president Dick Cheney disguised as an Israeli “anti-terror expert,” and roped several Republican congressmen and former elected officials into voicing their support for a program that would arm toddlers with guns to prevent school shootings.
In the season finale, Cohen’s Italian photographer character tried to get OJ Simpson to confess to committing murder, and his right-wing conspiracy character interviewed former congressman Barney Frank.
Though Palin’s segment didn’t end up making the cut for the season finale, Cohen listed Palin in the episode’s closing credits as a “Special Publicity Consultant (Inadvertent)” for the free marketing she gave the show.
Here are the notable people and politicians who appeared on the first season of “Who Is America?”:
Sen. Bernie Sanders
The show’s first episode began with Cohen interviewing Sanders, the Vermont senator who was a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, as a right-wing conspiracy theorist character named Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr.
Sanders, with a perplexed expression, politely dodged and shut down various absurd questions on income inequality and other topics from Cohen’s Ruddick.
Larry Pratt, executive director emeritus of Gun Owners of America
In the strongest segment on the pilot episode, Cohen’s Israeli “anti-terror expert” character, Col. Erran Morad, introduced Pratt and several other conservative political figures to a fake program called “Kinderguardians” that would arm children as young as 3.
Pratt endorsed the program and, reading off a teleprompter, said: “Toddlers are pure, uncorrupted by fake news or homosexuality. They don’t care if it’s politically correct to shoot a mentally deranged gunman. They will just do it.”
Florida congressman Matt Gaetz
Cohen’s Morad character interviewed Gaetz for the pilot’s segment on arming toddlers, but Gaetz wisely sidestepped the topic, saying, “Typically members of Congress don’t just hear a story about a program and then indicate whether they support it or not.”
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
In a montage of endorsements from conservative politicians, Lott, the former Mississippi senator and Republican Senate majority leader, advocated Cohen’s fake program for arming children.
“I support the Kinderguardian program,” Lott said in the pilot episode, adding that the US should consider arming “talented children or highly trained preschoolers.”
California congressman Dana Rohrabacher
Rohrabacher said in the same segment that training schoolchildren how to shoot a gun “might actually make us safer.”
South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson
Wilson also chimed in on the “Kinderguardians” segment.
“A 3-year-old cannot defend itself from an assault rifle by throwing a Hello Kitty pencil case at it,” Wilson said, adding: “Our Founding Fathers do not put an age limit on the Second Amendment.”
Former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh
Walsh, now a conservative radio host, also voiced his support for arming children.
“The intensive three-week Kinderguardian course introduces specially selected children from 12 to 4 years old to pistols, rifles, semiautomatics, and a rudimentary knowledge of mortars,” Walsh said in the episode. “In less than a month – less than a month – a first-grader can become a first-grenade-er. Happy shooting, kids.”
In an interview with CNN prior to the shows premiere, Walsh elaborated on a series of tweets he wrote last week by explaining how Cohen “duped” him into appearing on the show by offering him “an award from some Israeli TV station because I’m a great supporter of Israel.”
Georgia state representative Jason Spencer
Cohen’s Morad character roped Spencer into participating in an “anti-terrorist” training video in episode two.
In the segment, the fourth-term representative shouted the N-word repeatedly and did a racist impression of a Chinese person.
“All you damn sand-n—– over in the Middle East, we are tired of you coming to America and we are tired of you trying to threaten us,” Spencer said in a post-credit scene, facing the camera. “We will cut off your dick, you understand? We will take your dick and we will shove it in your mouth.”
Spencer told The New York Times that he believed the training video was real and meant for “elected officials who may be targeted by terrorists,” and said he has “sought legal counsel” regarding his appearance.
Former “Bachelor” contestant Corrine Olympios
Olympios appeared in a fake photoshoot with Cohen as an Italian photographer character, who pressured her into lying at length about helping fight the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone and saving 6,000 Africans.
“He played this crazy Italian man. He was screaming in a cheesy Italian accent the whole time, I was like, what’s this dude’s problem?” Olympios said in a new interview with The Daily Beast.
Broadcast journalist Ted Koppel
Cohen interviewed Koppel as the right-wing conspiracy character Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr. while spewing comical alternative facts about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd.
Koppel described his experience of appearing on the show in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter before the show’s premiere last month.
Former vice president Dick Cheney
Cohen’s Morad character asked Cheney in an interview about his “favourite war” and the torture practices (“enhanced interrogation,” as Cheney labelled it) of the Bush administration.
Cheney signed a “waterboard kit” from Cohen at the end of the segment, and it sold on eBay following the episode.
Former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore
In episode three, Cohen’s Morad interviewed Moore and concluded the segment by pulling out a metal-detector wand he said the Israeli military had been using to detect pedophiles.
Cohen tested the wand repeatedly on himself, Moore, and another man in the room, saying it must be “malfunctioning” for beeping only when it was waved over Moore.
“I’ve been married for 33 years and never had an accusation of such things,” Moore said in the segment. “If this is an instrument – and certainly I’m not a pedophile, OK? I don’t know, maybe Israeli technology hasn’t developed properly.”
Former South Carolina state representative Chip Limehouse
Limehouse appeared in a joint interview with the Atlanta rapper Bone Crusher in a segment from Cohen’s hyper-liberal-parody character Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, called “Heal the Divide.”
The former South Carolina rep condescendingly patted Bone Crusher on the back when Cohen’s character asked the rapper if he is offended by the word “black,” and got increasingly perturbed at Cohen’s series of absurd questions on race relations and gay sex.
Atlanta rapper Bone Crusher
Unlike the agitated Limehouse, Bone Crusher stayed level-headed and rolled his eyes at most of Cain-N’Degeocello’s questions.
Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio
In episode four, Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned in 2017, told a new Cohen character of a Finnish YouTuber that he wouldn’t be surprised if Trump participated in a golden shower, the most salacious, unverified claim from the infamous Trump dossier of 2016.
Cohen also asked the sheriff: “If Donald Trump calls you up after this and says, ‘Sheriff Joe, I want to offer you an amazing blow job,’ would you say yes?”
“I may have to say yes,” Arpaio replied.
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
Lewandowski largely managed to avoid embarrassing himself in conversation with Cohen’s right-wing conspiracy character, Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr.
The fifth episode aired on the one-year anniversary of the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where violent clashes with counterprotesters left one woman dead. Cohen’s Ruddick tried to get Lewandowski to defend fascists against the rally’s counterprotesters.
“You can’t be attacking honest, fascist people who just want to express their right to start a genocide. That is their right,” Cohen said.
“Look, I don’t know about that, but what I do know is this: If the law says that people can do a peaceful protest, then they should be allowed to do that,” Lewandowski replied.
Former Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke
Clarke was not as cautious as Lewandowski in his replies to Cohen’s Finnish YouTuber character’s questions about fascists and anti-fascists, which eventually turned to the subject of 1930s Germany.
“Well, you have to act aggressively,” Clarke said of anti-fascists. “When I say that, you have to use force to disperse the crowd. You have to be willing to arrest people and take them to jail.”
“It’s a shame that there weren’t brave sheriffs like you around in Germany in the ’30s, because you could have protected the fascists and let them speak their mind a bit clearer, and then things could have been done a bit quicker,” Cohen said, disguised as OMGWhizzBoyOMG.
“Well, you don’t want to take sides,” Clarke replied.
“Of course, particularly not in Germany in the ’30s,” Cohen said.
Rap Genius cofounder Mahbod Moghadam
The cofounder of lyric annotation site Rap Genius (now called Genius) got a similar treatment to “The Bachelor” contestant Corinne Olympios, as Cohen’s Italian photographer character, Gio Monaldo, photoshopped Moghadam into helping feed hungry children in Sudan.
Moghadam, who was forced out of Rap Genius in 2014 after leaving distasteful annotations on the manifesto of a mass shooter, readily went along with the prank.
Former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein
Stein pushed back on ludicrous claims about global warming from Cohen’s right-wing conspiracy character Ruddick in an unremarkable segment in episode six.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean
Cohen’s Ruddick confronts Dean with a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton is a man by showing Dean a picture of Clinton with a photoshopped bulge in her pants.
Dean jokingly denies but halfway entertains Ruddick’s theory by saying, “We’re not gonna find out” if Clinton is a man, adding, “Maybe the trouser presser did a lousy job.”
Former congressman Barney Frank
Frank eventually walks out of his interview with Ruddick in the season finale, after Ruddick plays him a doctored version of Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape in an attempt to convince Frank that Trump was actually telling Billy Bush to buy a cat to counter a rat infestation.
Cohen’s Italian photographer character, Gio Monaldo, tried to get Simpson to confess to committing murder in the season finale by joking about killing his girlfriend, but Simpson repeatedly said “stop” while laughing.
“Me and you, we got something in common,” Monaldo said. “We both, how you say, ‘ladykillers.'”
“No, I didn’t kill nobody,” Simpson said, laughing.
“Ah, I didn’t either,” Monaldo replied.
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