This past week, Jason Spencer, a Republican state representative from Georgia, revealed that Sacha Baron Cohen had tricked him into shouting “provocative language” during what he thought was a real anti-terrorism training video. Now we know that “provocative language” was the N-word.
The shouting of racial slurs by Spencer, who was recently defeated in a GOP primary after serving four controversial terms, was just one of several unnerving moments from the most outrageous segment in the second episode of Showtime’s Who Is America? Week two of this news-making show also featured former Vice President Dick Cheney signing a “waterboard kit,” Ted Koppel arguing about the size of Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd and The Bachelor’s Corinne Olympios gamely pretending that she helped clean up the Ebola crisis in Africa.
In last week’s premiere, we saw some pretty gullible gun rights advocates fall for Baron Cohen’s deception. But even arguing that toddlers should be armed with guns is nothing compared to the behavior the comedian elicited from Spencer, admittedly a far less prominent and powerful figure than people like Cheney or Bernie Sanders.
Posing again as Israeli terrorism expert Col. Erran Morad, Baron Cohen enlists Spencer, who claims to be a victim of death threats, for a training video on how elected officials can protect themselves from terrorists. The training involves a parade of Islamophobic, homophobic and racist “techniques” that Spencer takes in stride.
This shouldn’t be all that surprising for anyone familiar with Spencer’s record, which has included threats against a black female Democratic colleague and a proposal to ban Muslims from wearing veils. And yet, still, the things that Spencer does and says with Cohen are truly shocking.
When Morad asked Spencer to act like a Chinese tourist in order to take selfie-stick photos up a suspected terrorist’s burka, he obliges, delivering the most racist and ignorant impression you can imagine. When he requests that Spencer scream the “N-word,” the lawmaker does so aggressively and without hesitation. The inevitable joke comes when Baron Cohen asks him, “Are you crazy? The ‘N-word’ is noony, not this word, this word is disgusting.”
At one point, Morad says that terrorists are so afraid of gay people that they think they will become homosexual if you touch them with your bare behind. So Spencer takes off his pants and quite literally bum-rushes his Israeli trainer, shouting, “‘Murica!’”
“A Message to Terrorists from Rep. Jason Spencer” comes in the form of a post-credits sequence. “All you damn sand-n*ggers over in the Middle East, we are tired of you coming to America and we are tired of you trying to threaten us,” he says, inexplicably wielding a knife in front of a green screen. “We will cut off your dick, you understand? We will take your dick and we will shove it in your mouth,” he adds, taking an aggressive bite out of a large sausage. “How are you going to rape children and women without a dick?”
By comparison, Col. Morad’s interview with Cheney is pretty tame. Like the Bernie Sanders sit-down from the first episode, it’s more about highlighting Baron Cohen’s lightning-quick improv skills, including one-too-many jokes about “Dick pics,” than it is about exposing something new about the former vice president. For instance, despite the host’s best efforts, he does not get Cheney to admit that he shot his hunting buddy in the face on purpose. And frankly, we all already knew that Cheney has no moral quandaries about torture.
On the other end of the spectrum, the segment with Corinne Olympios is the first one of the series that does feel like unnecessary punching down, especially given what we know about her experience as the victim of an alleged sexual assault on the set of Bachelor in Paradise last summer.
Olympios told The Daily Beast that Baron Cohen’s crew forced her to surrender her cell phone and would not let her leave the set during the shoot. “I’m like, are you guys kidnapping me?” she remembers thinking. “I don’t get it. It was like, you’re holding me here against my will, what the fuck is going on? You guys are fucking out of your minds!”
Her willingness in the segment to lie about a supposed humanitarian trip to Sierra Leone is deeply embarrassing, but it’s hard not to wonder what exactly she did to deserve being pranked like this.
There are no similar concerns to be had about Spencer. After losing his primary election, the Republican lawmaker is already on his way out of the Georgia legislature. But following his performance on Sunday night’s episode, will he really be allowed to serve out the rest of his term?