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Sacha Baron Cohen is being sued for defamation by Roy Moore over his appearance on the actor’s controversial Showtime series — and the embattled former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice is seeking $95 million in damages.
Moore appeared in a July 29 segment of Who Is America?, a show that features Cohen in disguise interviewing public figures about hot-button issues.
Cohen, as the character Erran Morad, interviewed the judge and demonstrated a fictional device meant to detect pedophiles — a reference to Moore’s alleged sexual misconduct with an underage girl that surfaced during his failed campaign for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat.
Moore says he never would have agreed to fly to Washington if he had known the true reason for the trip — he was lured under the premise that he was receiving an award for his support of Israel — and his lawyers sent a threat letter in an effort to get Showtime to not air the footage, according to the complaint.
“Defendant Cohen’s character falsely and fraudulently introduced a false and fraudulent ‘device’ supposedly invented by the Israeli Army to detect pedophiles,” state the complaint. “During the segment, Defendant Cohen’s ‘device’ — as part of the false and fraudulent routine — purports to detect Judge Moore as a sex offender, thus defaming him.”
In the complaint, Moore’s lawyers argue the experience was especially distressing “given his status as a prominent conservative and a God fearing person of faith.”
Moore is suing Cohen, along with CBS and Showtime, for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud. As a public figure, Moore will have to prove defendants acted with malice and either knew the statements concerning him were false or acted with a reckless disregard for their falsity. Cohen’s reps have not yet responded to a request for comment on the complaint, which is posted below.
The pay cabler, however, on Wednesday sent The Hollywood Reporter this statement: “The press has been sent copies of an alleged complaint, yet to our knowledge SHOWTIME has not been served. With that said, we do not comment on pending litigation.”
Cohen is no stranger to litigation. His 2006 film Borat saw multiple people sue claiming they had been humiliated by him. Those claims largely didn’t stick, in part, because plaintiffs had signed agreements releasing filmmakers from liability. Here, Moore’s lawyers are arguing that the release he signed was obtained through fraud and is therefore void.
After Cohen’s new series debuted, many began speculating whether the project would spark lawsuits from his “victims,” but the controversial comedian has free speech on his side — and likely more contracts that provide a legal safety net — which makes complaints like this one a tough prospect for plaintiffs.
Sept. 5, 1:20 p.m. Updated with statement from Showtime.
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