Of all the absurd antics on Sacha Baron Cohen’s Showtime series “Who is America?” — which took aim at figures such as O.J. Simpson and former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio — the most uncomfortable moment may have involved Roy Moore.
Moore certainly wasn’t too happy about the July 29 episode that implied that he is a pedophile. Now, he is suing Cohen, CBS and Showtime for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud. Moore seeks $95 million in punitive and compensatory damages, according to the lawsuit.
The former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice isn’t having a good year.
The Washington Post won a 2018 Pulitzer Prize for telling the stories of six women who said Moore pursued them when they were teenagers and when he was a local prosecutor in his 30s. The Post’s investigative report, published in November 2017, appeared as Moore was running for the Senate with a tweeted endorsement from President Trump, thrusting the race into the spotlight.
Though he was originally favored to win, Moore lost the December 2017 special election to the Democratic candidate Doug Jones. That probably has to do with the attention everyone began paying to Moore’s past — everyone including Cohen.
As Moore told it, he was flown to Washington, D.C., to “receive an award for my strong support of Israel. 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,” referring to some of the other public figures that had been duped by Cohen.
When he arrived, he met with one of Cohen’s more popular characters from the series: the fake Israeli anti-terrorism expert Erran Morad. As luck would have it, Morad wanted to discuss the prevention of pedophilia, presumably an uncomfortable subject for Moore.
During a sit-down with Moore, Cohen’s Morad said that researchers found “pedophiles” secrete an enzyme at “three times the level of non-perverts” and that Israel “developed a machine that is used in schools and playgrounds to detect anyone coming in.”
He showed Moore a wand and said it would beep when waved over a sex offender. Before demonstrating the machinery, he told Moore, “It is very, very simple to use. You just switch it on, and because neither of us are sex offenders, then it makes absolutely nothing.”
As Cohen fans might expect, the wand beeped each time he waved the wand over Moore. The gag continued for several excruciating minutes, as a faux confused Cohen-as-Morad tried to “figure out” the problem.
“It must be faulty. It’s malfunctioning,” Cohen said. “Is this your jacket? Did you lend the jacket to somebody else?”
“No,” Moore responded. “I’ve been married for 33 [years]. I’ve never had an accusation of such things. … If this is an instrument — certainly, I’m not a pedophile.”
“But the machine, the machine works,” Cohen insisted.
Eventually, Moore ended the interview. “I am simply cutting this conversation right now,” he said. “Good night. I support Israel. I don’t support this kind of stuff.”
The lawsuit claims Moore “suffered extreme emotional distress” for “being falsely portrayed as a sex offender and pedophile.”
“Sacha Baron Cohen, who is not only low class but also a fraudster, will now, along with Showtime and CBS, be held accountable for his outrageous and false, fraudulent and defamatory conduct which callously did great emotional and other damage to this great man and his wife and family,” Larry Klayman, who founded the conservative group Freedom Watch that is representing Moore in the case, told the Associated Press in a statement.
Representatives for Cohen have not responded to several media outlets’ request for comment. Showtime, meanwhile, has told several outlets that the network does not comment on pending litigation and isn’t aware of having been served with a lawsuit.