The segment in question features a number of Republican members of Congress endorsing a fictional program to train preschoolers to fire guns as a means to preventing school shootings. All Rohrabacher says in the segment is: “Maybe having many young people trained and understand how to defend themselves and their school might actually make us safer here."
Among the other members featured are freshman Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who remained skeptical of the proposal from Baron Cohen’s character, Col. Erran Morad, a self-proclaimed Israeli anti-terror expert.
Rohrabacher, who is viewed as an endangered incumbent in an Orange County district won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, wrote in a statement: “Cohen’s people apparently used footage from an interview I submitted to earlier this year for a bogus Israeli television company supposedly celebrating the country’s 70th anniversary.”
He continued: “In that interview, which was not with Cohen, I spoke broadly of training young people at a responsible age in self-defense. At no time did I endorse training toddlers in handling guns. Nor was the idea even presented to me directly. If it had been, I would have rejected it. In school shootings, the standard response is ‘Run, hide, fight,’ in that order. My response was perfectly consistent with that. I love good satire, but good satire must reveal some basis in truth. This was fraud, a sick fraud at that, and its intention was to deceive the American people for political purposes.”
The California incumbent’s Democratic opponent Harley Rouda has already seized upon the clip, tweeting alongside the footage: “[Rohrabacher’s] willingness to promote a non-existent ‘children’s gun program’ proves his commitment to the NRA over our Nation’s safety. His gullibility, lack of due diligence, and weakness is exactly why Vladimir Putin adopted him decades ago.”
Asked whether the Rouda campaign plans on using the clip in an advertisement or promotional materials in the future, Jack d’Annibale, communications director for the campaign said: “I think it is definitely safe to say that the campaign clearly wants to educate voters in this district on where Dana Rorhabacher stands which is outside the mainstream.”
He added: “You can bet your bottom dollar if you will that this is going to be part” of Rouda’s case to voters in the district.
UPDATE, 5:17 p.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from Rouda's campaign.