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The List of Baron Cohen's Victims Keeps Growing

And he responds in character to Sarah Palin ahead of show's premiere on Sunday
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2018 8:59 AM CDT
The List of Baron Cohen's Victims Keeps Growing
Sacha Baron Cohen is seen in Los Angeles on May 23, 2016.   (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

(Newser) – Every day, it seems, a new victim comes forward to admit being duped by Sacha Baron Cohen in a stunt for a new Showtime series called Who Is America?. Baron Cohen tricked, or tried to trick, famous people from across the political spectrum into outrageous interviews, and the results will begin airing Sunday night. The comedian seems to be relishing what the AV Club calls the "inadvertent PR" being generated by those coming forward. Here's what is known:

  • The show: Who Is America? premieres at 10pm Eastern Sunday, and Showtime says the "seven-episode series explores the diverse individuals, from the infamous to the unknown across the political and cultural spectrum, who populate our unique nation." The Hollywood Reporter rounds up more of the basics: So far, the only confirmed character played by Baron Cohen is "Dr. Billy Wayne Ruddick," who interviewed Sarah Palin and others.

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  • Response to Palin: In the wake of Palin's angry denunciation of Baron Cohen, the comedian has responded in character as Ruddick with this letter to her. "I have always admired you for TELLING THE TRUTH about Obama’s birth certificate and the location of Russia," he writes. "But ma’am, I do believe you have been hit by a bull---- grenade and are now bleedin’ FAKE NEWS." As Ruddick, he denies telling Palin he was a war vet. "I was in the service—not military, but United Parcel."
  • The victims: Vulture rounds them up, at least the known ones. In addition to Palin, they've got Dick Cheney (see this show promo), conservative Joe Walsh, "Sheriff Joe" Arpaio, Ted Koppel, failed Senate candidate Roy Moore, and radio host Austin Rhodes. The Drudge Report adds Howard Dean, Bernie Sanders, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and Trent Lott to the list.
  • Koppel explains: The journalist tells the Hollywood Reporter of his experience after a legit-sounding producer arranged an interview with him for a legit-sounding Showtime project. (The story includes the email pitch.) It sounds like Baron Cohen showed up at Koppel's house in his Ruddick character, and Koppel kicked him out as the questions got more and more outrageous. Wisely, Koppel never signed a release.
  • Walsh wants boycott: "His tactics are disgusting," politician-turned-radio-host Walsh tweeted Wednesday. He called for a Showtime boycott after Baron Cohen had him sit for the "strangest interview of my life." Walsh even received a bogus pro-Israel award.
  • Moore may sue: Al.com has the full statement from Moore explaining how he, too, got tricked into attending a bogus pro-Israel event. "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," he says in the statement. Moore threatened to sue "if Showtime airs a defamatory attack on my character," per the New York Daily News.
  • And another: GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is the latest to confirm he was a victim, reports the Daily Beast. "They totally got me," Gaetz says. “I now remember an interview I gave regarding Israel and I now believe that was Sacha Baron Cohen." Gaetz, who recalls turning down strange requests to hold up weapons during the interview, adds that he is a fan of the comedian and can't wait to see the series.
(Read more Sacha Baron Cohen stories.)

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