Howard Dean is a Hillary Clinton admirer.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post in 2015, when Clinton was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, the former Vermont governor and ex-chairman of the Democratic National Committee said Clinton “remains the best hope for Americans.”
On Sunday, Sacha Baron Cohen asked Dean about other Clinton characteristics. Among the questions he asked him to address: Is Clinton a man or a woman?
Cohen, as he does regularly on his Showtime program, “Who Is America?,” posed as a character to goad statements from unsuspecting interviewees. It’s sort of his thing. This time, he was presenting himself as a conspiracy theorist, Dr. Billy Wayne Ruddick.
“Do you believe Hillary is actually a woman?” Cohen-as-Ruddick asked.
Dean appeared surprised at the question. Cohen began to say, “Because there is …” as Dean interjected.
“I know,” Dean said. “There’s lots of ideas floating around. And, you know, I know her.”
In an email to The Washington Post, Dean called the segment a “ruse” and said the show’s representatives claimed that the interview was for a “series which matched liberals with Trump supporters to see if we could find common ground.”
Dean otherwise declined to address the exchange with Cohen — at least initially.
“I won’t comment on the content,” Dean wrote. “It was a farce and farce doesn’t merit comment. I do think it hurts the credibility of CBS, the owners of Showtime. Interviewing folks by lying to them is not good news practice.”
In a follow-up email, Dean said that while meeting with Cohen, he questioned the legitimacy of a doctored photo that Cohen’s character showed him and did not question Clinton’s gender.
Cohen had displayed an image of Clinton with an outline of a penis in her pants. Dean appeared baffled and suggested it might have been the result of a bad trouser press.
“You think the trouser press created a perfect penis?” Cohen asked.
In the segment that aired Sunday, Dean told Cohen: “Oh, who knows? I can’t go here; I can’t do it. And we’re not going to find out, because we’re not going to examine her.”
But Dean later said he rejected the premise of some questions during the segment.
His response “Oh, who knows?” showed he was skeptical of the photo itself, he told The Post on Monday.
A Clinton spokesman and CBS did not respond to requests for comment.
He also targeted failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, who lost a special election bid last year amid allegations that he had initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl while in his 30s.
In that segment, Cohen used a “pedophile detector” device on Moore, which beeped as Cohen passed it over the Alabama Republican.
On Sunday’s program, Cohen keyed in on one of the more outrageous conspiracies spawned in the dark corners of the Internet.
Alex Jones’s website Infowars claimed he had proof that Michelle Obama was a man, prompting Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, to rebuke the site on Twitter last August.
Unlike some earlier guests on Cohen’s show, Dean did not appear to be duped as the segment ended. Cohen showed another, more explicit photo of Clinton as “proof” she is a man.
Dean appeared exasperated.
“You’re telling me that is fake news?” Cohen asked.
Said Dean: “I believe it is.”