Comedy

Sacha Baron Cohen Duped Republican Lawmakers Into Saying Some Really Stupid Things

The Borat comedian's new "Kinder Guardian" videos put lawmakers in cringe-worthy light.

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Maybe Norris Sweidan, owner of Warrior One Guns & Ammo in Riverside, ought to be the one on the November ballot for a congressional seat. I don't know Sweidan's political views, but he showed more savvy than some current and former lawmakers who were duped by comedian and prankster Sacha Baron Cohen into appearing in a Showtime spoof promoting the arming of toddlers in a "Kinder Guardian" program.

Sweidan recently released a store video to Fox News in Los Angeles showing a bearded man in leather pants entering his store last year with a film crew. They claimed to be making a documentary about a Hungarian immigrant buying a gun. "I'm looking at the producer and I'm just like am I being fooled right here?" Sweidan told Fox. "And I just kept looking at the guy and I was like you're Borat, as soon as I said that his eyes just looked at me like, and he did a turn right out the door." Showtime didn't reply to the station for a comment on Sweidan's claims.

Cohen is best known for Borat, a "mockumentary" about a Kazakh journalist who travels around America to learn its customs. It was a vile film that left me feeling dirty for having watched it. I loved Cohen in "Talladega Nights," which also was released in 2006. But the butt of Borat's jokes were ordinary people who were played for fools. Laughing at people who, say, behaved graciously when Cohen brings a bag of poop to the dinner table is like laughing at someone who falls down because you yanked his chair from under him. That's not humor, but cruelty.

Cohen's latest spoof is a Showtime satirical series called Who is America? In the first installment, Cohen pretends to be an Israeli gun-rights activist who is promoting a program that would train children to protect their fellow school children by using weapons. He managed to get two American gun-rights activists and current and former lawmakers to say some amazing things.

Cohen, pretending to be Israeli Colonel Erran Morad, introduces kids in an instructional video to "Puppy Pistol," who "is part of a whole group of new friends" called "Gunimals." Morad's guest, "gun-rights hero" Philip Van Cleave, says Gunny Rabbit is "ready to put the naughty man on a very long time-out." (Van Cleave reportedly said in a social-media post that he was just playing along to find out who was behind it.)

It's a cringe-inducing video. Larry Pratt, executive director emeritus of Gun Owners of America, reads a statement saying that "Toddlers are pure, uncorrupted by fake news or homosexuality. They don't worry if it's politically correct to shoot a mentally deranged gunman. They'll just do it." But surely lawmakers would be too clever to be tricked, right?

Sadly, that's not the case. U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (R–S.C.) read this script, "A 3-year-old cannot defend itself from an assault rifle by throwing a Hello Kitty pencil case at it." Former Illinois GOP congressman Joe Walsh, now a talk-radio host, read that "In less than a month, less than a month, a first grader can become a first grenadier." Former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) was filmed saying that Americans should think about "putting guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens, good guys, whether they be teachers or whether they actually be talented children or highly-trained preschoolers."

U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who represents Huntington Beach (or Moscow, as his critics facetiously allege given his views on Russia), made the most reasonable point: "Maybe having many young people trained and understand how to defend themselves in their school might actually make us safer here."

Rohrabacher told the Orange County Register that he was referring to high-school students, he was never told about the "Kinder Guardian" program and the video was sent "earlier this year for a bogus Israeli television company supposedly celebrating the country's 70th anniversary," in which he spoke "broadly of making sure young people could get training in self-defense." He certainly wasn't punked as badly as the others, but it still is embarrassing for a long-serving congressman.

Rohrabacher also accused the show of trying to "deceive the American people for political purposes." Yes, the Cohen satires have a political message. The apparent goal is to mock those who support gun rights. Then again, many conservatives were gleeful about conservative prankster James O'Keefe's undercover videos that embarrassed liberal foils, such as the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). I likewise expect that many liberals who reviled O'Keefe to applaud the Cohen antics.

When are such antics morally acceptable? That's the subject for a longer article that wrestles with distinctions between undercover video journalism and political stunts. But this much is certain: It's disturbing that these prominent lawmakers and activists didn't have as good of a BS meter as the guy in the Riverside gun store.

This column was first published in the Orange County Register.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. He was a Register editorial writer from 1998–2009. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

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  1. I think he’s very funny and these were some brilliant hustles. My favorite thing about it was how he discredits the Israeli security industry. Because for a while that was my biggest fear – that we would import Israel’s police state in the midst of all the terrorism hysteria. People will be a little more skeptical next time someone lectures us on how Israel does it. Now having said that, the solution he seems to be proposing is gun control and mental illness indoctrination (aka ‘treatment’). Well Israel is a good example of what happens when only the government (and a few extremists) are allowed to have guns: they shoot at protesters like fish in a barrel. Even liberal Israelis (who oppose the occupation) despise American gun rights and this conundrum is about to come into sharp relief, and it’s about time.

    1. Oh wow. You’re so wrapped up in your nationalistic dogma you don’t even realize how nutty you sound.
      BTW, are you Egyptian? You sound Egyptian. All the Lebs, Syrians, Turks and Arabian Arabs I know, don’t usually have that jingoistic tone.

      1. Oh, I’m a Canadian Norwegian/Scotsman/Metis BTW, and 23 says I have 0% Ashkenazi. Just thought I’d preempt you calling me a Jew or Mossad.

  2. This is what happens when you try to impress trumptards. The sad part is that some russian troll out there was ready to push the kinder guardian and trumptards wouldve embraced it.

    1. True, a Russian robot tried to brainwash me into voting for trumps, but there was a malware disfunction so I ended up voting for Gary Johnson 3 times. He still lost.

    2. Yup. This is what swung it for Trump. At least for me. I saw that image of Jesus arm-wrestling Satan and I knew I had to vote Trump.

      God, just admit that you and your retarded team lost to a buffoon despite all the Democrat cheating that happens every election. And let it sink in. Your politics and candidate were so hated that despite massive voter fraud you failed.

    3. “This is what happens when you try to impress trumptards. The sad part is that some russian troll out there was ready to push the kinder guardian and trumptards wouldve embraced it.”

      This (^) is what happens when your brains have leaked out.

    4. No such thing as a “Left Libertarian” jack*ss. You’re a Marxist Progressive Socialist loser.

    5. RUSSIAN BOTS ATTACKED MY BIRDFEEDER AND STOLE ALL THE SUNFLOWER SEEDS!!! – t.Progressive

  3. I liked him as Ali G, interviewing various British celebrities, and giving them embarrassing questions such asking David Beckham which Spice Girl other than his wife he would most like to do ? and Beckham’s wife was right there.

    Then I saw him in Bruno, which had a few funny moments, but overall made my skin crawl. The guy has some serious hatred towards gays and it’s surprising he gets a pass for that in Hollywood.

    1. The guy has some serious hatred towards gays

      He does? That wasn’t the impression I got.

      1. Ali G was the first and last really funny thing I have ever seen him do. There is something really ugly when he tries to ridicule ordinary people.

        1. I don’t know if “ridicule” is the right word. He doesn’t force anyone to say or do anything. That comes from themselves.

  4. But the butt of Borat’s jokes were ordinary people who were played for fools. Laughing at people who, say, behaved graciously when Cohen brings a bag of poop to the dinner table is like laughing at someone who falls down because you yanked his chair from under him. That’s not humor, but cruelty.

    This is why I never liked him much. Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, they were cruel to each other — Cohen is cruel to people who have been duped by their naivety and stupidity.

    Interesting that so far, all his political victims seem to be on the right. I take that as showing he’s a typical lefty and doesn’t want to embarrass his own kind, but really, with Feinstein stumbling around, that California gun control legislator in the pen for selling machine guns, Bernie protesting too many deodorant choices, Lizzie faking her ancestry, a white NAACP chief self-identifying as black, mattress girl and safe spaces, a Nobel Peace Prize winner starting war after war, actors praising Venezuela, luddites bemoaning capitalism uplifting Cuba — what’s to satirize? How could he top those clowns? And so he won’t even try. Not very ambitious.

    1. Honestly, I have come to view attempts to satirize both the left just downright sad. As we see, we can’t really satirize them, because they will actually move to the ridiculous positions given the opportunity.

    2. His pranking on noncelebrities can be taken as most Americans desire to be polite and affable even in face of rampant assholery.

      1. ^ I think this. I might even extend “rampant assholery” to include a desire to not embarrass someone from another culture. What I find problematic is the willingness to do it on film. Cohen must have some top-shelf bullshit artists working on getting folks to sign release forms.

      2. That’s a much better description, thanks.

      3. “His pranking on noncelebrities can be taken as most Americans desire to be polite and affable even in face of rampant assholery.”

        Yes. He’s an asshole and most people try to feed him answers which won’t make it worse. He (and the twits who enjoy him) find it amusing.

    3. “Cohen is cruel to people who have been duped by their naivety and stupidity.”

      It always seemed to me that this was his specific intent; his shtick. Find an idiot who agrees with the position that he dislikes, dupe the idiot into doing something stupid, and leave the implication that all people who support his disfavored position are gullible idiots.

      It’s not exactly original. It’s a pretty standard tactic. He’s just more of a cruel asshole than most.

      1. Also, if you’re Michael Moore, heavily edit the footage so you can find the single phrase that makes them look like they’re dumb or an asshole, even if it’s a tiny chunk of a much larger discussion.

    4. There are lots of examples of (presumably) lefties he tricked. The women’s rights advocates in Borat for example. The PR girls in Bruno. And he did a movie called the Dictator (not the same genre) which made fun of hipsters the whole way through.

  5. Fair and Balanced

    Russian comedians prank phone call U.S. Representative Adam Schiff

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5waop30577A

    1. [chung chung]

  6. ” … introduces kids in an instructional video to “Puppy Pistol,” who “is part of a whole group of new friends” …”

    I do believe that little boys need no instruction, no training, and no demonstration whatsoever, in this matter of them learning how to play with their “Puppy Pistol”… They do a MOST EXCELLENT job of learning that all on their own!

    As to the young girls, they should have equal rights to playing with the boys’ Puppy Pistols as well!!!

    So WHAT, exactly, is the problem here, other than perhaps educational over-spending? Is that it? How much did Borat fleece the taxpayers?

    1. I do believe that little boys need no instruction, no training, and no demonstration whatsoever, in this matter of them learning how to play with their “Puppy Pistol”

      My 1yo son has proven this right, to my wife’s chagrin.

      1. I do hereby and alwaysby promise to NOT tell your wife that you help him learn this valuable life skill…

        …so long as you promise not to tell ANYONE about that “little incident” of mine with the “scritching and yiffing” with the geese, the hamsters, the twin dwarfs in French maids’ get-ups, the cheeze-flavored underthongs, and the 12 gallons of blue paint!

        1. 12 gallons of blue paint!

          God, there’s nothing better than a blue job.

          1. “I’m afraid I just blue myself.”

  7. So what? Republicans dupe Republican lawmakers.
    Move along, nothing to see here.

  8. Colonel Erran Morad

    And wingnuts swoon.

  9. I think it’s pretty telling that our supposed “betters” can be duped by someone like Cohen. Especially when some normal guy who owns a gun store knows better. Seriously, only a slimy politician would read some of those statements in front of a camera because they thought that it would get them some votes somewhere.

    I say expose them for the morons that they are.

  10. Duping public figures into saying stupid things is like shooting fish in a barrel. They say plenty of stupid things without any duping needed.

    But, the practice of using fraud and deceit to gain recording of people that are then used for your own publicity is concerning.
    We should expect our politicians to be open and honest with the public, with extensive access to both press and individuals. This form of ‘gotcha’ entertainment or journalism will only isolate the politicians and encourage them to never talk to people outside of hyper-controlled situations. That doesn’t benefit the republic.

  11. “Borat” was a failure. Baron Cohen’s premise in “Borat” was that is would be easy to lure American deplorables into revealing their true ugliness and hatefullness by presenting himself as a foreign rube they could condescend to and laugh at, but he mostly failed. The people he tried to dupe instead bent over backwards to try to be nice to him. He had to resort to extremely offensive behavior and getting them drunk to goad them into reacting negatively to him. That ugliness that he posited to be just below the surface actually was very difficult to provoke. “Borat” showed that ordinary Americans were better than Baron Cohen thought they were, but he went ahead and presented the film as if it showed he was correct in his contempt for them.

    1. But the Trump presidency…..

    2. Yep. What the average American wants more than anything else is just to be liked, to be popular, to have friends. Americans are a generally friendly and affable people, especially when you get outside the big northeast cities.

      1. “Americans are a generally friendly and affable people” That was true maybe 20-30 years ago. Today we are impolite, intolerant of others political views and generally unhappy. We are a society driven by fear…of nearly everything…..at least in my estimation.

        1. Only in the large cities.

          1. Yep. Mcgoo95 needs to get out in the heartland more.

            1. Until you give the wrong answer to “What church do you go to?”

              1. Or just that you go to some kind of church is important.

                A friend of mine who was living in South Carolina was talking about how the culture is more tolerant than northerners think.

                He told a story that a lady asked him “so what church do you go to?”

                He said ” well I am Jewish ”

                She said “Oh that is just fine honey. You just keep going to your Jewish church every Sunday hear?”

                1. It’s funny?in the Midwest, Jews are normal. You don’t know they’re Jewish until they tell you. The Jews I meet from the Northeast are all like characters from a Neil Simon play.

                  1. Try Friday night in Tel Aviv.

                2. The South has been more tolerant for a very, very long time.

                  I lived in NJ briefly and was always amazed that they felt Southerners were so racist when, at the Boardwalk for example, you saw no black people. Seriously, I live within a block of multiple times more black folks than I saw in an hour combined there.

                  1. True. Northern cities are more segregated than Southern ones, and all-white small towns are common in the Midwest.

          2. True. They’re more passive aggressive in the country. As his movie showed quite well.

    3. So he is Joker in “The Dark Knight” with the ferries.

    4. “”Borat” was a failure.”

      Borat made $261M and SBC won a Golden Globe. You have a strange definition of failure.

      1. That was just my first sentence. Read the rest of the post and you’ll understand what I meant.

        1. “Baron Cohen’s premise in “Borat” was that is would be easy to lure American deplorables into revealing their true ugliness and hatefullness by presenting himself as a foreign rube they could condescend to and laugh at, but he mostly failed.”

          Or he was just making a funny movie…..I think 90% of the time I was laughing at him, not the people he interacted with. Not everything is about us, maybe we shouldn’t be so sensitive about everything?

          1. No, he obviously had a point to make, which apparently went over your head.

    5. The people he tried to dupe instead bent over backwards to try to be nice to him.

      Like the guy who gave him the “friendly” advice to shave his mustache so he didn’t look like a terrorist? Or the family who hosted him for dinner but called the cops on him shortly afterward? The people who tried to murder him in Bruno for making out with another guy? The college kids who embraced him so they could teach him to hate women? The New Yorkers who he attempted to merely greet but who ran away from him or physically threatened him? The list goes on…

    6. I did not get this impression of Borat at all. This is a very strange take on the movie. The humor in the movie was not from the reactions of the people, but from Borat’s actions themselves. It was just a dumb comedy. I don’t think Cohen was trying to prove anything.

  12. “But the butt of Borat’s jokes were ordinary people who were played for fools. Laughing at people who, say, behaved graciously when Cohen brings a bag of poop to the dinner table is like laughing at someone who falls down because you yanked his chair from under him. That’s not humor, but cruelty.”

    The Brits have been afraid of us for a long time.

    They’re afraid of our independence. They’re afraid of our free speech. They’re afraid of our innovation. They’re afraid of our religiosity. They’re afraid of our gun culture.

    The Brits are also the funniest people on earth. Their fear translates into making fun of us for our independence, free speech, ignorance, religiosity, and gun culture.

    1. I don’t think afraid is the correct adjective, more like appalled….

      1. Afraid of freedom, appalled by freedom, potato, potahto.

        1. “Afraid of freedom, appalled by freedom, potato, potahto.”

          Not really. Also, it’s potatoe….

      2. “I’m afraid of Americans!
        I’m afraid of the world.
        I’m afraid I can’t help it.”

        —-David Bowie

        1. Good song. Great video.

  13. Part of it is a cultural divide between Americans and not only the Brits but also the Canadians and Australians.

    I can’t remember the last time I saw an American refer to another American as “arrogant” or “greedy”, and yet these are pejoratives Brits, Canadians, and Australians throw at each other all the time. “Arrogant” and “greedy” might be the two most popular words Brits, Canadians, and Australians use to describe Americans, too.

    What the commonwealth countries perceive as “arrogance” is what Americans value as “confidence”. “Self-confidence” is seen by Americans as a good thing–especially in children. What commonwealth countries perceive as “greed” is what Americans perceive as “ambition”. Again, in America, that’s a good thing.

    “I hate the feelin’ when you’re looking at me that way
    ‘Cause we’re North Americans
    But if we act all shy, it’ll make it okay
    Makes it go away

    . . .

    We are North American scum!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ2np7R-Uwg

    That’s the thing Cohen is making fun of here–American “arrogance”. Americans think they know everything–yet look how ignorant they are! Isn’t that hilarious?

    Libertarians should be disgusted by this, but so should average Americans. “This is America”, the show should be called. He’s making fun of Americans for being Americans.

    1. Americans in general dont like Kings and Queens.

      We’re ‘uncivilized’, according to the serfs of the British Empire.

      1. Americans most certainly do like queens!

    2. Funny, I’ve heard plenty of American’s refer to other American’s as both arrogant and greedy.

      1. Are they immigrants?

  14. I wonder how they don’t twig on to there being something fishy going on. For instance, from what I have seen of his make up in that bit looks like it is living in the uncanny valley.

  15. I believe in the show he also duped some Democrats.

  16. “I loved Cohen in ‘Talladega Nights’…” I

    So what this movie needs is more Will Ferrel? I find that… improbable.

  17. Cohen is a prick. Like that Key and Peele strawman racist country music sketch, his parody is rooted in cynicism and prejudice. It’s just the lowest, most cowardly form of political attack to use the “gotcha!” approach which never truly yields the smoking gun (no pun intended) that the cynical perpetrators think it does.

    Useful idiots on “both sides” of the neverending tribal shitshow.

    1. Most of the things Key and Peele do, I find really funny. If it’s funny you can give them a pass for not being fair to everybody.

      1. That is true. I do love the East-West College Bowl sketches, and the telemarketer sketch. I am “butthurt” over the stupid country music sketch because I LOVE MY COUNTRY but actually now I’ve had a moan about in a couple of Reason comments threads I feel better.

    2. “Cohen is a prick. Like that Key and Peele strawman racist country music sketch, his parody is rooted in cynicism and prejudice. It’s just the lowest, most cowardly form of political attack to use the “gotcha!” approach which never truly yields the smoking gun (no pun intended) that the cynical perpetrators think it does.”

      Sounds almost exactly like the “reverend” asshole who posts here.

      1. Carry on, clingers!!1!1!!111onehundredeleven

  18. So when will he catch Lizzie Warren or Chuck Schumer saying that Trump voters should be imprisoned and climate change deniers should get the death penalty. You know that they are thinking that.

  19. That’s not humor, but cruelty.

    The “cruelty” was few and far between. The vast majority of that movie preyed on people’s inherent biases and fears, and emphasized that xenophobia and American exceptionalism are the rule rather than the exception. The “poop” incident that you refer to immediately followed a discussion that the hosts were having talking about how “vast” the cultural differences are after being exposed to him acting like a complete imbecile for 20 minutes. The lesson to be learned from Borat is that we think that people who come from foreign lands and speak with accents are retarded. If people are easy to dupe, it’s because they are ignorant of other cultures.

    1. The lesson to be learned from Borat is that we think that people who come from foreign lands and speak with accents are retarded.

      A good rule of thumb, in my experience. Just look at the French.

    2. The lesson to be learned from Borat is that we think that people who come from foreign lands and speak with accents are retarded. If people are easy to dupe, it’s because they are ignorant of other cultures.

      No, it’s evidence of a desire to be polite. If I know nothing of a country and somebody who says he/she is from there claims something is a tradition, I’m in a poor position to state otherwise.

      1. Yes. Far from showing “xenophobia” or “biases and fears”, the people at the dinner were trying so earnestly to be tolerant and hospitable that it took the “poop incident” to finally force them to realize they were being played and call the sheriff. They were easy to dupe up to that point because they were trying so hard to NOT be disrespectful to someone from a different culture.

  20. Sacha Baron Cohen Duped Republican Lawmakers Into Saying Some Really Stupid Things

    At least they needed to be duped.

    Many lawmakers and politc say some really stupid, racist, and offensive things almost every time they open their mouths without any need to be “induced” to do so. Bernie and Hillary, I’m looking at you.

    Neither of those groups should represent us in Congress. But, then, only a moron or a masochist would want to be a Congressman.

  21. Meh. Bad grammar in penultimate paragraph.

  22. I don’t think there’s that much of a “trick” to leading a politician down an insane path — If you approach them pretending to be of generally the same political alignment, they’ll be predisposed not to disagree with you and alienate a potential voter/contributor. From there it’s a few simple steps down the slippery slope as they start telling you what they think you want to hear.

    It’s not so much that they believe in idiotic things; it’s that they can rationalize supporting anything that’s politically expedient. The danger is that they’re subject to the same forces in the course of their actual job. It’s not that anyone actually thought “Kinder Guardian” was a good idea, it’s that if it were actually proposed, and enough people appeared to be supporting it, they’d drift right along with them. The same applies to “socialism”.

    I think there’s evidence of something like 20% of the population being strongly “dissociative” — ideal subjects for stage hypnosis, heavily subject to peer pressure, etc. Their whole perception of reality is heavily malleable, and possibly only stabilized at all by the peer group/echo chamber they favor. I suspect that such people are over-represented in politics.

    1. there’s evidence of something like 20% of the population being strongly “dissociative”

      I would expect you’d find plenty of them in Yoga and meditation classes. Yoga is practically the official religion of “progressives”.

  23. “But this much is certain: It’s disturbing that these prominent lawmakers and activists didn’t have as good of a BS meter as the guy in the Riverside gun store.”

    Lawmakers are so full of BS and so surrounded by BS that would not recognize it if it jumped up and bit them on their tiddly winks.

  24. Cohen exists to prove that Tosh .2 really isn’t the most lame ‘celebrity’ in the world.

  25. comedian and prankster Sacha Baron Cohen

    think you meant :

    “comedian” and prankster Sacha Baron Cohen

  26. I see nothing wrong with this proposed Kinder Guardian program… Sounds like a brilliant idea to me! LOL

    In all seriousness though I know my hick uncles learned to shoot by 5/6 or so, I don’t think I shot a gun until 8 or 9 though. The CRAZY thing is that teaching kids proper gun handling at very young ages, with proper supervision obviously, isn’t an insane idea. 8 year old kids used to go hunt for dinner back in the day for fucks sake.

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