US & Canada

Sacha Baron Cohen ridicule prompts Georgia lawmaker to quit

Jason Spencer and Sacha Baron Cohen Image copyright Georgia Congress and AFP
Image caption Spencer (left) called the Baron Cohen show a "ridiculously ugly episode"

A Georgia lawmaker ridiculed for dropping his trousers and using racial slurs on Sacha Baron Cohen's Who Is America? show has said he will resign.

Republican state representative Jason Spencer had initially refused to quit after the show aired on Sunday.

Baron Cohen's show dupes public figures with fake interviews.

Mr Spencer is coaxed into an "anti-terrorism training class", using the n-word to ward off a kidnapper and baring his buttocks to scare off terrorists.

"If you want to win, you show some skin," Baron Cohen, disguised as an anti-terrorism expert, had urged him.

The office of the Speaker of Georgia's House of Representatives told the Washington Post that Mr Spencer had submitted his resignation, effective from 31 July.

The lawmaker had faced mounting calls to quit, with the Speaker, David Ralston, among them. He told CNN Mr Spencer's actions and language were "reprehensible", adding: "Georgia is better than this."

In the episode, Baron Cohen invents the "Israeli anti-terrorism expert" Col Erran Morad, and convinces Mr Spencer to:

  • Bare his buttocks and chase Baron Cohen shouting "USA!" Mr Spencer is told terrorists do not want to be touched by other men's buttocks because they are afraid of homosexuality
  • Shout the "n-word" loudly and repeatedly to attract attention and ward off a kidnapper. Baron Cohen then says: "Are you crazy? The 'n-word' is noonie! Not this word. This word is disgusting"
  • Impersonate a Chinese tourist while placing a selfie-stick under the garment of a burqa-clad person to take a picture to ensure the person is not a terrorist (Mr Spencer backed legislation in 2016 to ban Muslim women from wearing burqas in public)

Mr Spencer had initially refused to quit over what he called a "ridiculously ugly episode".

The four-term representative was defeated in the Republican primary for his seat in May, but had intended to serve his remaining five months in office.

He said in a statement Baron Cohen had taken "advantage of my paralysing fear that my family would be attacked".

"My fears were so heightened at that time, I was not thinking clearly nor could I appreciate what I was agreeing to when I participated in his 'class'," he said.

Mr Spencer apologised to "my family, friends, and the people of my district", adding: "I deeply regret the language I used at (Baron Cohen's) request."

The Baron Cohen series airs on Showtime in the US and Channel 4 in the UK.

Other duped "guests" include former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and former US vice-president Dick Cheney.

Mrs Palin pre-empted the airing saying on Facebook: "I join a long list of American public personalities who have fallen victim to the evil, exploitive, sick 'humour' of the British 'comedian' Sacha Baron Cohen, enabled and sponsored by CBS/Showtime."

Mr Cheney apparently agrees to autograph a "waterboard kit".

Baron Cohen's biggest political showdowns

Image copyright Getty Images/ PA
  • Years before US president Donald Trump entered the world of politics, he was interviewed by Ali G, Baron Cohen's Staines rapper. The famous interview saw his character try to pitch a business idea involving an "ice cream glove" to the entrepreneur
  • As part of a sketch for Channel 4's 11 O'Clock Show in 1998, Ali G got UK Conservative politician Rhodes Boyson to say that children should be "caned" at school, Baron Cohen was criticised for playing on Mr Boyson's weakness as the politician had previously appeared on Have I Got News For You, apparently without realising it was a satirical comedy show
  • In an interview with former Conservative politician Neil Hamilton in 2000, Ali G offered Mr Hamilton some "cannabis", which he accepted and smoked, creating minor controversy in the British media
  • In 2004, an episode of Da Ali G Show saw Borat interview Republican candidate for US Congress, James Broadwater. Borat's questions led Mr Broadwater to say Jews would go to hell if they did not follow Christianity
  • In the 2009 film of the same name, his character Bruno interviewed Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and in the scene tried and failed to seduce the Texas congressman into making a sex tape with Bruno, a gay Austrian TV host

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