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This May Be the 'Most Humiliating' Who Is America? Segment Yet

Georgia lawmakers are calling for state Rep. Jason Spencer to resign after his appearance
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2018 4:59 AM CDT
Updated Jul 24, 2018 6:11 AM CDT

(Newser) – The second episode of Sacha Baron Cohen's Who Is America? aired Sunday night on Showtime, and it may have claimed its first casualty: Georgia lawmakers are calling for state Rep. Jason Spencer to step down after what Mic calls a "life-ruining appearance" on the show. "Of all the individuals featured in Who Is America? so far, Spencer seems the most likely to have damaged his career," Kathryn VanArendonk and Megh Wright declare on Vulture. The segment featured Baron Cohen, pretending to be an Israeli "anti-terrorism expert" named Erran Morad, supposedly teaching Spencer (who introduced a bill in 2016 that would have effectively barred Muslims from wearing burkas or niqabs) how to protect himself from Islamic extremists. Read on for what happened, the reaction that has followed, and more from the episode:

  • So what exactly did Spencer do during the segment? He pretended to be a Chinese tourist (attempting to imitate a Chinese accent and spouting what Mic calls "racist gibberish"), pulled down his pants and underwear to thrust his bare buttocks at Morad after Morad told him members of ISIS believe any man who comes in contact with another man's butt will become homosexual, and repeatedly shouted the n-word as part of a kidnapping role-playing exercise in which Morad told him that doing so would attract attention to himself. You can watch the segment here.

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  • Spencer's statement: You can read it in full at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which calls Spencer's segment the "most humiliating" one on the show yet. In Spencer's statement, he says that he has received "countless death threats" since introducing the aforementioned legislation banning facial coverings, and that Baron Cohen "took advantage of my paralyzing fear that my family would be attacked." He apologizes for the "ridiculously ugly episode" and says he regrets taking part and using the language that he did, but that he was so scared he wasn't thinking clearly.
  • Is that so? Vulture offers a comparison video in which another, similar statement from Spencer scrolls by alongside footage from the Who Is America? segment.
  • Who's calling on him to resign? The speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives called for Spencer to step down over his "reprehensible" behavior, the New York Times reports. Georgia's governor also spoke out against the "appalling and offensive" actions and language, and others on both sides of the political aisle have condemned his behavior.
  • But he isn't planning to: Spencer, who lost his bid to be re-elected in May's Republican primary, says in his statement, "I recently lost my primary election, so I will not [be] eligible to hold office next term. Therefore, I will finish the remaining five months at my post and vacate my seat." The Journal-Constitution notes that state Republican leaders are researching ways to reprimand him, and that a bipartisan ethics complaint may be filed against him.

  • Baron Cohen responds: Baron Cohen, in character as Morad, responded to Spencer's statement on Twitter: "Boker tov. I have been inform elected official & all-round mensch I meet, Jason Spencer, have somehow been portray in bad light by Showtime. To reveal the truth, here is the unedited film. Do not worry Jason Shpenker, Erran Morad have got your backside."
  • Who else was on Episode 2? Vulture lists the five segments of Sunday's show in order from least damning to most damning; Spencer, of course, claims the most damning spot. Least damning goes to Ted Koppel, who seemed mostly exasperated during his interview.
  • Corinne Olympios: Vulture ranks the Bachelor star right after Koppel and says that though she "looks pretty bad" in the episode, it's more sad than anything else. Her response to her appearance is here.
  • Dick Cheney: The former VP lands smack in the middle of Vulture's ranking. He was willing to name his favorite war and laughed while discussing killing potential terrorists. He also signed what Baron Cohen's Morad character described as a "waterboard kit," and you can now bid on that on eBay.
  • Arizona focus group: The group of Kingman, Ariz., residents is ranked just barely ahead of Spencer on Vulture's list. Asked for their opinions about a massive mosque supposedly being built in their town, "the unfettered fear and racism of these everyday citizens" that is then displayed "is more sobering than it is entertaining," write VanArendonk and Wright.
  • More on that focus group: The AV Club points out that the group was likely curated to ensure a certain type of response. The Mohave Valley Daily News reported in January that attendees were recruited through local Facebook pages and quoted one as saying, "I think they were trying to piss us off, just for reactions. Because the stuff they were stating was just absurd."
(Read more Sacha Baron Cohen stories.)

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