Sacha Baron Cohen seemed to get Republican state representative, Jason Spencer, into some hot water after his latest episode of Who Is America, a satire mockumentary that has gone viral.
Who Is America, as described by Baron Cohen himself, aims to “explore the diverse individuals, from the infamous to the unknown across the political and cultural spectrum, who populate our unique nation.” But behind the intricate setup of the prank is a genuine search for the truth about people, places and politics.
Baron Cohen definitely got the most out of the prank involving Spencer, so much so that Georgia lawmakers and others are calling on him to resign. What could be so bad? Well, the easier question to answer would be, "what didn't go badly?" The episode centred around Baron Cohen acting as Israeli anti-terrorist expert, Erran Morad, training Spencer in identifying and intimidating terrorists. The prank didn't even need to build up to being offensive because it started out as just being plain racist. The first exercise involved Baron Cohen encouraging Spencer to act like a Chinese tourist, resulting in a most offensive display of "ching, chong, Hong Kong" and then proceeded to stick a phone up the skirt of a woman in a burqa to see if she is actually “a man with an explosive.”
The next exercise involved preventing a kidnapping but not even 5 seconds into the exercise and Spencer was shouting the N-word (without having to be prompted). Baron Cohen started the exercise by saying, “In America, there is one forbidden word. It is the n-word,” he tells Spencer. “Now, I am going to be the terrorist. You have three seconds to attract attention.” Spencer then jumps straight into yelling the N-word without hesitation before Baron Cohen stops him, pretending that the word he meant was 'nooni'.
The last exercise was, in all honesty, more humiliating on his part. Baron Cohen stated it was a lesson in intimidating a terrorist with the possibility of homosexuality, pulling his pants down and running at Baron Cohen... butt-first (now we will never get rid of that image). An uncut version of the episode ends with Spencer saying, “All you damn sand-n#*gers over in the Middle East, we are tired of you coming to America.” He then threatens to cut off their genitals.
This isn't the first time Spencer has gotten himself into hot water as he, at one stage, aimed to implement a law that would prevent women from wearing burqa's. He also entered into a heated debate and threatened a black Democrat over the removal of Confederate statues. Although Spencer will not have any chance of being re-elected as he has already lost to a newcomer, some are calling for his resignation before the end of his term, including Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, who called the appearance “appalling and offensive.”
Spencer responded to certain media outlets, including the Washington Post, in a text that read, “In 2017 I received countless death threats in connection with my introduction of legislation involving the wearing of masks. The threats escalated to the point that my wife received threatening phone calls concerning her and my children. I was very afraid for my safety and the safety of my entire family. Then, on June 14th, a gunman opened fire at members of Congress on a baseball field. I knew people on that field. Now, the fears I already had become more intensified as the reality of my family being targeted by a similar, deranged, would-be assassin became even more possible. I was in such a poor state of mind that my wife and I also undertook marriage counselling with a licensed therapist during this time. "Sacha Baron Cohen and his associates took advantage of my paralyzing fear that my family would be attacked. In posing as an Israeli Agent, he pretended to offer self-defense exercises. As uncomfortable as I was to participate, I agreed to, understanding that these ‘techniques’ were meant to help me and others fend off what I believed was an inevitable attack.
"My fears were so heightened at that time, I was not thinking clearly nor could I appreciate what I was agreeing to when I participated in his ‘class.’ I was told I would be filmed as a ‘demonstration video’ to teach others the same skills in Israel. Sacha and his crew further lied to me, stating that I would be able to review and have final approval over any footage used.
"I deeply regret the language I used at his request as well as my participation in the ‘class’ in general. If I had not been so distracted by my fears, I never would have agreed to participate in the first place. I apologize to my family, friends, and the people of my district for this ridiculously ugly episode. Finally, there are calls for me to resign. I recently lost my primary election, so I will not eligible to hold office next term. Therefore, I will finish the remaining five months at my post and vacate my seat."
Although the nature of Baron Cohen's show racks up rather divided reviews, he has fooled other politicians like Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney and Bernie Sanders too. His first season of the show is said to air a total of seven episodes.