Sacha Baron Cohen reliably churns out cringeworthy moments on his new Showtime series “Who Is America?” But Sunday night’s episode may be the most uncomfortable yet.
Cohen — who shows up as various characters in the satirical series — played fake Israeli anti-terrorism expert Gen. Erran Morad as he interviewed former Senate candidate Roy Moore (R) of Alabama. And “Morad” brought along “the latest Israeli gadget”: a wand that he said detects pedophiles.
Moore lost the December 2017 special election to fill an empty Alabama Senate seat to the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, amid allegations that when Moore was a local prosecutor in his 30s, he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl.
Several weeks ago, Moore hinted that he had been tricked by Cohen and blasted Showtime for tricking other conservative politicians and personalities.
According to Moore, he received an expenses-paid trip in February to Washington to “receive an award for my strong support of Israel,” he wrote in a statement. “I did not know Sacha Cohen or that a Showtime TV series was being planned to embarrass, humiliate, and mock not only Israel, but also religious conservatives such as Sarah Palin, Joe Walsh, and Dick Cheney.”
He added that Cohen’s “art is trickery, deception, and dishonesty” and “as an American, I would never hide my identity and deceive others only to mock and ridicule them as this Showtime Series is designed to do.”
In Sunday’s episode, Cohen-as-Morad sits down with Moore and details some fake Israeli research: Sex offenders, “particularly pedophiles,” secrete an enzyme at “three times the level of non-perverts,” so Israel has “developed a machine that is used in schools and playgrounds to detect anyone coming in.”
The fake anti-terrorism expert then takes out a wand that sort of looks like a handheld metal detector. “It is very, very simple to use,” he says. “You just switch it on, and because neither of us are sex offenders, then it makes absolutely nothing.” The wand beeps every time Cohen puts it near Moore.
“It must be faulty. It’s malfunctioning,” Cohen says, as Moore keeps a tight smile. “Is this your jacket? Did you lend the jacket to somebody else?”
“No,” Moore responds. “I’ve been married for 33 [years]. I’ve never had an accusation of such things.”
Even as Cohen says, “I’m not accusing you at all,” Moore continues, “If this is an instrument — certainly, I’m not a pedophile.”
“But the machine, the machine works,” Cohen says.
“Maybe Israeli technology hasn’t developed properly,” Moore counters.
“This is 99.8 percent accurate,” Cohen says. “It is not saying that you are a pedophile, of course not.”
Finally, Moore ends the interview. “I am simply cutting this conversation right now,” he says. “Good night. I support Israel. I don’t support this kind of stuff.”
Appearances on “Who Is America?” have generated other controversies. Georgia state lawmaker Jason Spencer (R) resigned from his seat after his appearance on the show, in which he dropped his pants and repeatedly used the n-word. Cohen also got former vice president Dick Cheney to sign a fake “waterboard kit” and several Republican politicians to endorse a fake program that would arm toddlers.
When asked about Sunday’s episode, Showtime had no comment.