Entertainment

‘Third-Rate’ Cohen Uses Cheap Pranks to Prop Himself Up

'Borat' comedian's show debuts Sunday with some low standards and high-profile 'guests'

Controversial comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has been pranking conservatives ahead of his new show “Who Is America?” which debuts on Showtime on Sunday.

Known for “Da Ali G Show” as well as the hit movie “Borat,” Cohen is grabbing gobs of free advertising by irking prominent folks on the Right for “undercover” interviews he’s done over the past year.

He’s pranked (at least) six conservatives so far (plus former “Nightline” host Ted Koppel), according to Vulture.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is among those pranked by Cohen.

Cheney can be seen signing a “waterboard kit” in a recent teaser video that Cohen posted — a reference to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp for suspected terrorists.

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It seems former Alaska Gov. Palin, also a former vice presidential candidate, has received the worst treatment thus far, as she recalled the experience on her website in a blog post.

Palin and one of her daughters were offered a chance to be interviewed for a “legit Showtime historical documentary” by what appeared to be a disabled U.S. veteran (who she believes was actually Cohen). Palin said the interview was filled with “disrespect and sarcasm.” Ultimately, she took off her mic and walked out.

After that, Cohen’s production team, according to Palin, purposefully dropped her off at the wrong airport so that she would miss her flight back home to Alaska.

“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,” Palin wrote. “Truly sick.”

One must also wonder if Cohen’s actions constitute stolen valor.

He responded to Palin’s statement by saying he never specifically posed as a “war vet.” Palin has called for profits from that episode to go to a veterans charity.

Joe Walsh — a former U.S. representative from Illinois, now a syndicated radio host — also came forward with a story of Cohen’s trickery. In a series of tweets, he said he was invited to a pro-Israel dinner and asked to give an interview. Walsh said things took a bizarre twist when he was asked how Israeli children should defend themselves against terror attacks. Ultimately he quit the interview.

Saying he didn’t feel very “spoofed,” Walsh said he did appreciate the fake award the Cohen crew gave him for his “Significant Contributions to the State of Israel.”

Roy Moore — the recent failed Alabama Senate candidate — may have attended the same event as Walsh to receive an award for “strong support of Israel,” the New York Post reported. Moore is furious at the prospect of being duped.

On Twitter, Moore wrote, “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!”

Cohen also went after Austin Rhodes, a Georgia-based conservative radio host. Rhodes told The Hollywood Reporter he was pitched a show called “Bridging the Divide” last August to speak with “Dr. Nira Cain,” a gender studies professor at Reed College in Oregon. He was supposed to explain the support in Georgia for President Donald Trump.

During the interview, Cohen — posing as Dr. Cain — called the U.S. Army “an active terrorist organization,” according to Rhodes, and also said that “white supremacists are responsible for most of the gun deaths in America.”

Rhodes found the ordeal to be ridiculous; he also received about 50 emails from listeners during the segment telling him it was a prank. One caller later explained that Cain mentioned a fictitious documentary by Todd Schulman in the interview, who is listed as a producer for such Cohen films as “Borat,” “The Dictator” and “Bruno.”

Ultimately, Rhodes was not angered. “I am not worried at all,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “My biggest regret is not being able to shake his hand as Sacha Baron Cohen or interview him (as himself). I hope we can set that up … He owes me one.”

Joe Arpaio — the sheriff and U.S. Senate candidate from Arizona — recently told Breitbart that he, too, was among Cohen’s victims.

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Arpaio said Cohen posed as a big-time comedian from Finland doing a series about 20 of America’s “most popular” people. Traveling to L.A. in October for the interview, Arpaio was made to believe he was doing a live interview in front of two million viewers.

At first, the interview seemed normal to Arpaio, as it focused on immigration, the Second Amendment, President Donald Trump and the way jails are run. Some of the rhetoric — including sexual innuendos — soon began to make him uncomfortable, however.

“I felt uncomfortable … but I had to live through it. I am not the type of guy who gets up and walks out,” he said. “I never walked out in thousands of interviews. I just take it.”

Tellingly, one person Cohen was unable to dupe in the past was Donald Trump. Back when Cohen hosted “Da Ali G show,” which ran from 2000 to 2004, he tried to prank Trump — but the future commander-in-chief wasn’t buying it.

Cohen “thought he was being cute and funny … It’s disgraceful,” said Trump.

Trump looked unimpressed during the 2003 exchange. He walked off the set after about a minute when Cohen explained an idea for “ice-cream gloves.”

In 2012, Trump had some choice words after the comedian dumped ashes on Ryan Seacrest at an Oscars red carpet event. “This third-rate character named Sacha Baron Cohen thought he was being cute and funny when he threw ashes at Ryan Seacrest,” Trump said, according to Fox News. “I know Ryan Seacrest, and he’s a great guy, and you could see he was visibly upset. It’s disgraceful.”

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday and other outlets.

Tom Joyce
meet the author

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.

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