Sacha Baron Cohen duped leading Republicans into reciting absurd endorsements of a fake program to arm toddlers in his premier of Showtime’s “Who is America?” last night. One angle that seems to have baited Republicans into participating was no-holds-barred support for Israel.
Like in his “Da Ali G Show,” Cohen wearing a disguise met with senior politicians under the premise of filming an unknown foreign news show. But where his infamous Borat and Bruno played off of stereotypes that punched down, in this series he impostures hardline characters whose influence has increased under the Trump administration, namely a right wing blogger and a terrorism expert.
Cohen’s most memorable segment is a 10-minute bit in which he is dressed as an Israeli Defense Forces general and seeks to launch “Kinderguardians,” a program to train children from as young as 3 to handle guns and light mortars. With Israel already running these programs in schools, says Cohen, costumed as Gen. Erran Morad, his goal is to expand in the U.S. market with the help of Second Amendment enthusiasts. “The NRA wants to arm the teachers, this is crazy! They should arm the children,” Cohen declares.
The look is a smart parody—realistic enough but anyone familiar with Israel would be able to spot him as a fake. Cohen’s head is shaved, he has a scar in one eyebrow, but the giveaway is the logo on his shirt. It resembles a self-made army unit t-shirts that are popular with soldiers, except the Hebrew letters are written backwards (Cohen is Jewish and speaks Hebrew fluently, oft employing the language in his ruses.) If the text is flipped it reads a banal “The school for fighting terrorism,” yet anyone familiar with Israeli gun laws knows there are no classroom gun programs for small children and Israel has stricter gun laws than the U.S. Bullets are also limited.
“Gen. Morad” meets with lobbyist Larry Pratt who laughs a little too eagerly at Cohen’s locker room talk that “it’s not rape it’s your wife” and during the retelling of an apparent hate-crime murder of a Muslim gardener. Pratt insists the faux-victim should have prayed “in secret” to avoid being killed. He is also gullible enough to recite an endorsement clearly written by Cohen’s team that lauds toddlers for their sharpshooter skills because of their so-called biological advantage of the “Blink-182” pheromone and vascular “Cardi B.”
A number of Republican officials followed suit, stating for the camera without a hint of irony, that the way to “stop a bad guy” is to arm a “good boy.” Trent Lott, Joe Wilson and Joe Walsh make cameos with Walsh giving a particularly earnest sounding plug to the fake program: “In less than a month a first grader can become a first grenade-or,” he said.
I was reading from a TelePrompTer, promoting various Israeli innovation. I read a story about a child in Israel who stopped a terrorist. I then read about Israel training children on firearms. I thought it was extreme, but often Israel must be extreme. The story was a lie. 1) https://t.co/tO0B333g79
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) July 15, 2018
Hours after the program aired Walsh responded to criticism over social media with a mea culpa. (Others have threatened lawsuits). His explanation gave insight into how Cohen was able to get more than a handful of politicians to back a gun education camp for kindergarteners. Namely, Walsh said he did not support instructing American children to respond to school shooters with deadly fire. Rather he said he was reading off a teleprompter—describing what he thought was an existing class in Israel, as part of a larger interview on Israel’s achievements.
I agree David. I gotta own what I said. But @SachaBaronCohen flew me out to DC, put me up in a hotel, all to have an Israeli TV network give me a big “Friend of Israel” award. The entire thing was a big lie.
But he got me to read 30 seconds of crazy stuff about guns. https://t.co/ftYwgQVEbR
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) July 15, 2018
“I was reading from a TelePrompTer, promoting various Israeli innovation. I read a story about a child in Israel who stopped a terrorist. I then read about Israel training children on firearms. I thought it was extreme, but often Israel must be extreme. The story was a lie.”
He added, “If he had asked me about arming 5yr olds, I would have said hell no.”
Later in the season views will see Cohen create a fake pro-Israel award and give one to Walsh celebrating his commitment to the Jewish state. This event is one at which Cohen conned Sarah Palin and Roy Moore–yes that Roy Moore of Alabama pedophilia fame was also invited to Washington DC to receive a plaque.
In a statement posted to Facebook last week where Moore threatened a defamation suit, the disgraced former candidate for Senate accused Cohen of “trickery, deception, and dishonesty.”
“Because Alabama has always been at the forefront of support of Israel and because I share a strong belief in God as the Creator and Sustainer of all life, as does Israel, I eventually accepted the invitation. Expenses were paid, and I received no private remuneration for my time or participation,” Moore’s statement said.
David Frum, a former George W. Bush aide, expressed anger that the episode has exposed the degree of reflexive support for Israel in the US.
I’m really really not loving this game where @sachabaroncohen repeatedly takes advantage of people’s affection and respect for the State of Israel to deceive and humiliate them.