8:27am PT by Jackie Strause
'Who Is America?' Episode Sparks Calls for Georgia Lawmaker Who Used Racial Slurs to Resign
After making waves with a group of Republican congressman appearing to endorse a fictitious program to arm children, the second episode of Sacha Baron Cohen's provocative Showtime series, Who Is America?, is putting another lawmaker in the hot seat.
Jason Spencer, a Republican state representative in Georgia, was targeted in Sunday's episode of the top-secret satire show. During a segment about self-defense with Baron Cohen in character as Israeli anti-terrorism advocate Col. Erran Morad, Spencer followed Morad's prompts and was shown mocking Chinese people, yelling racial slurs — including repeatedly screaming the N-word — and exposing his behind in a bid to intimidate hypothetical terrorists, shouting, "I'll make you a homosexual." A filmed segment in the post-credits showed Spencer delivering a "Message to Terrorists," where he passionately used more racial slurs and acted out a threat of cutting off terrorists' genitals. The message ended with his endorsement of the fictitious anti-terrorism training video, cutting to the logo of the Georgia peach. (Watch the segment below.)
Ahead of the episode's airing, Spencer had said he would seek legal action if the footage aired.
"It is clear the makers of this film intended to deceive me in an attempt to undermine the American conservative political movement; therefore, I have sought legal counsel to challenge this illegal and unethical behavior and plan on taking action if and when any of this fraudulently obtained footage of me is used by these Hollywood liberals to line their own pockets," Spencer told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a statement, in part. "They exploited my state of mind for profit and notoriety. This media company’s deceptive and fraudulent behavior is exactly why President Donald Trump was elected."
Spencer has previously made national headlines for introducing a bill to ban burqas and for threatening a fellow state representative who advocated for the removal of confederate statues. Though he was defeated in the May GOP primary after four terms, he continues to serve until the new legislators are sworn in.
After the episode aired, Georgia leaders were quick to condemn Spencer and call for him to resign from the remainder of his post.
"The actions and language used on this video are reprehensible," Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said in a statement. "Representative Spencer has disgraced himself and should resign immediately. Georgia is better than this."
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal added on Twitter, "The actions and language used by Jason Spencer are appalling and offensive. There is no excuse for this type of behavior, ever, and I am saddened and disgusted by it."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Georgia is also calling for Spencer to resign, calling on Democratic and Republican leaders including Stacey Abrams, Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp to take action.
On Monday, Spencer issued a second statement to the Washington Post where he said he "deeply" regretted the language he used, but that he planned to serve out the remaining five months of his term. "I apologize to my family, friends and the people of my district for this ridiculously ugly episode. Finally, there are calls for me to resign. I recently lost my primary election, so I will not be eligible to hold office next term," he said, in part. "Therefore, I will finish the remaining five months at my post and vacate my seat."
Spencer is among a running list of political targets on both sides of the aisle to be duped by Baron Cohen for the series, which aims to expose the country's divide by using the Borat and Ali G comedian's unique satire. The episodes, so far, have also targeted current and former politicians Dick Cheney (who signed a “waterboarding kit"), Bernie Sanders, Trent Lott, Dana Rohrabacher; Joe Wilson, Joe Walsh and Matt Gaetz.
Sarah Palin, who is set to appear on an upcoming episode, accused Cohen of misrepresenting himself when he interviewed her in character as Billy Wayne Ruddick, Jr., the same character who interviewed Sanders and Ted Koppel on the first and second episodes, respectively.
Showtime responded to the criticism, saying, "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."
After Sunday's episode aired, Baron Cohen continued to target Spencer in character. A tweet from the Twitter account for Col. Erran Morad shared the original segment along with the words: "Boker tov. I have been inform elected official & all-round mensch I meet, Jason Spencer, have somehow been portray in bad light by Showtime. To reveal the truth, here is the unedited film. Do not worry Jason Shpenker, Erran Morad have got your backside."