The latest confirmed victim of Sacha Baron Cohen’s hilarity-inducing antics appears to be freshman Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
That is, according to Gaetz himself.
Initially contacted about the possibility that Baron Cohen may have duped him, ahead of the Sunday evening premiere of Who Is America?, the comedian’s new Showtime series, Gaetz told The Daily Beast that he couldn’t recall any such instance.
“You had me racking my brain but not that I’m aware of,” he initially said.
But hours later, Gaetz had a revelation. “They totally got me,” he wrote in a message to The Daily Beast.
“I now remember an interview I gave regarding Israel and I now believe that was Sacha Baron Cohen,” Gaetz, a self-described Baron Cohen fan, said in a subsequent phone call.
According to the conservative lawmaker, around the time of the 70th anniversary of Israel’s establishment, a man with short dark hair and heavy makeup had a conversation with him in his congressional office.
“I’ve been to Israel three times in the last 17 months,” Gaetz recalled. “Netanyahu told me he going to have to give me temporary citizenship because I’ve been there so much. So I assumed that, oh, someone I met over there… thought I’d be an interesting interview.”
In the congressman’s recollection, the conversation with the person he now believes to have been Baron Cohen began in a normal fashion—but things got strange rather quickly.
“We talked about the relationship,” Gaetz said, referring to the kinship between the United States and Israel. “I think we talked some degree about incitement. I recall he would ask these questions and I would give answers and then he would just sit there, kind of like hoping for some advance of the moment. But I have a very high tolerance for awkward moments. And so there were moments where we just sat there staring at each other.”
Part of what jogged his memory of the conversation was one particular request made by the interlocutor.
“There were points in the interview where he wanted me to like hold up images of weapons systems and endorse those weapons systems,” the congressman recalled. “And I said, I would not do that, of course. I don’t know these weapons systems, I’m not going to talk about them.”
Baron Cohen, and his new set of characters, have already ensnared a number of politicians for his new show, including Judge Roy Moore, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who has made the rounds on TV claiming the comedian’s interview was disrespectful to war veterans and “middle-class values.” Last week, the show released a teaser in which former vice president Dick Cheney can be seen signing a “waterboard kit.”
Unlike his conservative colleagues, however, Gaetz is in not upset like Palin was about getting punked by Baron Cohen.
Gaetz is such a big fan of the Borat and Bruno creator that he said he has shown clips of Da Ali G Show—Baron Cohen’s breakthrough early-aughts TV series—to some of his colleagues who may not have seen it. The congressman also gleefully mimicked the infamous Borat accent while talking with The Daily Beast.
“It’s very consistent with his model, beginning with a seemingly normal interaction and then the brilliance of his comedy is that he accelerates the awkwardness of it to some usually ironically humorous end,” Gaetz said, describing his interaction with the disguised comedian.
As for whether being targeted by Baron Cohen has changed his mind at all about the comedian, Gaetz said he’s unperturbed.
“I can’t wait to see it.”