California Gun Store Owner Says He Confronted a Disguised Sacha Baron Cohen

Norris Sweidan says Cohen visited his store in February, claiming to be filming a documentary about a Hungarian immigrant wanting to purchase firearms.
Tommaso Boddhi/Getty
Sacha Baron Cohen

Days after Sacha Baron Cohen's new headline-making show, Who Is America?, premiered on Showtime, a gun store owner is claiming that the comedian attempted to film a segment for the satirical series at his establishment in Riverside, California.

In a Tuesday interview with Los Angeles' Fox 11, Warrior One Guns & Ammo's Norris Sweidan said that Cohen and a camera crew showed up to his business in February. According to Sweidan, the British actor came in disguise, claiming to be filming a documentary about a Hungarian immigrant wanting to purchase firearms.

"He comes in, off the bat you can see in the video I’m looking like, this guy does not look like a Hungarian immigrant, tight-ass leather pants, a beard. It just didn’t fit," Sweidan said. "The moment his words came out of his mouth, I was like, 'This guy is full of shit.'"

Sweidan went on to say that Cohen's "fake" accent made it clear to him that the comic was attempting to dupe him. "I’m looking at the producer and I’m just like, 'Am I being fooled right here?'" Sweidan said. "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…and he did a turn right out the door."

While Sweidan said that Cohen immediately left the store, he noted that the film crew stayed behind.

"We’re talking to the people, they don’t wanna give us an answer. We basically told them to get the fuck out. 'You guys are all full of shit. Have a great day. Get out,'" Sweidan said. "Once I knew it was Borat, we already know his game and his bullshit, so we knew that he’s here to make a mockery, and make a mockery of what? Gun owners? The gun business, gun shops?"

Now that Cohen's Who Is America? has premiered, Sweidan believes that the Borat star came into his shop hoping to create content for the show.

"He was fake, the producers were fake, the show was fake, and Showtime is fake, to be honest with you," he said. "They want a real story? Come talk to us. We'll give you a real story."

Sweiden also provided Fox 11 with video footage of his alleged encounter with Cohen. Showtime had no comment when contacted by The Hollywood Reporter.

In addition to a few civilians, Cohen has targeted a handful of political figures for Who Is America? Among others, his victims include Dick Cheney, Bernie Sanders, Trent Lott, Ted Koppel and Sarah Palin.

Palin was the first to speak out about her interaction with Cohen, taking to Facebook to accuse him of posing as a disabled U.S. soldier named "Dr. Billy Wayne Ruddick, Jr." In response, Showtime released a statement, assuring that Cohen portrayed himself as a wounded veteran of United Parcel Service, not of the military.

The statement read: "There has been widespread misinformation over the past week about the character of Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., Ph.D., performed by Sacha Baron Cohen on the Showtime comedy series Who Is America? Baron Cohen did not present himself as a disabled veteran, and viewers nationwide who watched the premiere on Sunday can now attest to that. In Sunday’s episode, during an interview with Senator Bernie Sanders, Baron Cohen in character as Dr. Ruddick was asked by the Senator if he is disabled, and he stated that he is not and uses a mobility scooter to conserve his energy. In addition, Baron Cohen never presented himself as a veteran of the U.S. military to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin during the booking process or during the filming of her interview, and contrary to her claims he did not appear in a wheelchair. In both the interview with Governor Palin and the interview with Senator Sanders, he did not wear military apparel of any kind."

Who Is America? airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.