The hits keep coming from Sacha Baron Cohen’s new Showtime series Who Is America? After Sarah Palin and then Roy Moore confessed to being “duped” by the comedian, who interviewed them in character for what they thought was a straightforward political documentary, more “victims” are coming out of the woodwork.
In an “exclusive” interview with Breitbart, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, currently trailing Democrat Krysten Sinema by more than 20 points in the Arizona Senate race, said that he believed that the interview he did with Baron Cohen’s Finnish character, taped on October 2017, was being watched live by two million viewers. He reportedly became uncomfortable when the comedian started using terms like “blowjob,” “handjob” and “golden shower.”
“Something told me I had better document this,” Arpaio told Breitbart, taking a page out of James Comey’s playbook. “So, I typed those notes real fast.” In those notes, he wrote, “I signed some kind of contract before filming, which I have done numerous times, did not read all the info.”
“I felt uncomfortable with some of the words they were using but I had to live through it. I am not the type of guy who gets up and walks out. I never walked out in thousands of interviews. I just take it,” Arpaio added. “I was kind of shocked. But I figured this is Finland and this is a famous comedian.” Arpaio said he was “very careful in responding to controversial issues” like “profiling” and “illegal immigration,” adding, “They were hitting me with all of that.”
Former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh also spoke out about his experience with Baron Cohen’s crew on Twitter, saying, like Moore, that he was invited to a “pro-Israel dinner that honored defenders of Israel” where he appeared on camera for what he said was the “strangest interview” of his life.
“I sat down and we started talking pro-Israel stuff, Israeli defense, and then out of left field the interviewer starts talking about how children should defend themselves against terrorist attacks,” Walsh wrote. He claimed he stopped the interview after they asked him to read talking points off of a teleprompter.
And then there is Ted Koppel, whose admitted participation in the project throws a bit of a wrench in the notion that Baron Cohen was only targeting conservatives (it has also been reported that he interviewed Bernie Sanders). The veteran news anchor told The Hollywood Reporter that he was tricked into an interview by the same right-wing character who sat down with Palin.
The crew for what he was told was a series called Age of Reason came to his home last November. The host, a man “with an oxygen tank hanging off” of his wheelchair, tried to convince him that Trump’s inauguration crowd was larger than Obama’s.
“When I disagreed, he showed me a photograph on his laptop of a huge inaugural crowd and a man holding a digital clock on a pole,” Koppel said. “The clock said 11 p.m. My interviewer pointed out that if the crowd was that huge at 11, hours after the actual inauguration, it had to have been the biggest ever.” As they continued to argue back and forth, Koppel eventually cut the interview short saying, “‘Guys, I don't want to be rude; you're guests in my home. But we’re done. Break down and time to leave.’”
Koppel, who says he never signed a release for the episode, is not reacting as negatively as people like Palin and Moore have. “Everybody loves seeing well-known people get duped,” he added. “I relish it too, when it’s done well.” At the same time, he said that in this #FakeNews era, he’s worried the show could “undermine whatever tiny little bit of confidence might be left” in actual documentarians.