Sacha Baron Cohen Loves to Trick Politicians, but Roy Moore Is Threatening Defamation

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on July 25, 2018 | Last updated on April 30, 2019

Sacha Baron Cohen can trick even the trickiest politicians. But former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore says Cohen has gone too far, and is threatening a defamation suit if he doesn't like the way he is portrayed in an upcoming episode of "Who Is America?" a Showtime series which debuted last week to modest reviews. Moore is already involved in a defamation lawsuit against four women who raised +30-year-old allegations of sexual misconduct during his recent unsuccessful U.S. Senate race.

Who Is Sacha Baron Cohen?

Cohen is a comedian who enjoys taking part in political spoofs. In his latest television show, "Who Is America?" Cohen punks celebrities and politicians into doing interviews with him by pretending to be someone with whom they might speak.

Cohen likes to mock conservatives, and so he goes undercover to secure these interviews. He will go to great lengths to carry out the foolery, always conducted under costume and make-up worthy of an Academy Award. Sometimes the comedian flies interviewees across the country under the guise of accepting a humanitarian award in order to get them in front of the camera. To say Cohen will go the distance to dupe his targets is no joke. Such was the case with Moore, and he is not laughing.

Could Moore Win a Defamation Lawsuit?

Defamation is a state law, but most have the same elements. In order to prevail, Moore will have to prove:

  • Cohen made a statement
  • The statement was published
  • The statement caused injury
  • The statement was false, AND
  • The statement did not fall into a privileged category

Because our country was founded on strong beliefs for Freedom of Speech, especially against our former British rulers, if the defamatory statement was made against a public official or figure, it has to be made with "actual malice." So in this case, Moore would have to prove that Cohen aired a segment of the interview, containing a statement Cohen made, knowing it was going to cause harm, and either knew it wasn't true or didn't care at all whether it was true or not.

Cohen has had to settle defamation lawsuits in the past. In 2009, he interviewed Abu Aita, who is a Christian "peace-loving person" living in the West Bank, but Cohen portrayed Aita as a terrorist not only in his film, Bruno, but also on the David Letterman Show, when he was publicizing the film. Aita sued for millions, but terms of the settlement agreement were never disclosed. Other legal battles involving Cohen as a defendant include: inciting a riot at a gay rally, plagiarism in his hit film, Bruno, infliction of emotional harm while filming Borat, and the list goes on and on. Perhaps Cohen needs a punch card with his lawyers too,

No word yet on when the Roy Moore episode will air. Other prominent Republicans that will be featured in the series are Sarah Palin, Joe Arpaio, Jason Spencer, and Dick Cheney. Perhaps Cohen will stick to public figures as a legal strategy, which could be a good defensive move in light of his past lawsuits. Stay tuned to find out Moore's next move.

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