Sacha Baron Cohen drew eyes to Olympia, Wash., over the weekend by attending a far-right March for Our Rights rally. The comedian, known for bringing his satirical characters into real-world settings, posed as an event sponsor and led the crowd in an absurd singalong for several minutes.
Dressed in a cowboy hat and overalls, Cohen sang racist lyrics attacking President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Anthony S. Fauci, as well as CNN and the World Health Organization. He repeatedly mentioned “the Wuhan Flu,” a phrase some lawmakers have used to blame China for the spread of the novel coronavirus, and talked about “chopping them up like the Saudis do.” The crowd cheered and joined in.
The Saturday rally was a gathering of “constitutionalist” factions like the Washington Three Percent, which, as NPR noted in an interview with its founder, is associated with “the far-right Patriot and militia movement” as well as other groups that extremism trackers have placed in the anti-government category. The Washington Three Percent denied organizing the rally in a Facebook post, but expressed support for the cause and condemned Cohen’s actions as a way of “tarnishing the image of our attendees, spreading hate, encouraging divide, and promoting their popularity in the current viral culture.”
The prank falls in line with the satirical performances Cohen has built a career out of — most prominently with the British gangster character Ali G and Borat, the Kazakh journalist who interviews unwitting Americans in the incisive mockumentary sharing his name. After the rally video went viral, social media users wondered whether it would figure into a second season of Showtime’s “Who Is America?” series, which aired two years ago and also featured the comedian in disguise.
On that show, Cohen duped the likes of former vice president Dick Cheney, who autographed a “waterboard kit”; former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, who flew across the country to meet a veteran who was actually Cohen in disguise, and former Senate candidate Roy Moore, on whom Cohen used a fake pedophile detector. Though Showtime executives were reportedly eager to renew the series, for which Cohen earned a Golden Globe nomination, he told Deadline that it would be “impossible.”
“We relied on the fact that no one was expecting me,” Cohen said. “I hadn’t done anything undercover for over a decade and so nobody thought, ‘Oh, wait a minute, is this a Sacha Baron Cohen character?’ That’s the problem. You’d have to wait another 10 years to get away with it again.”
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