Sacha Baron Cohen revealed that he feared for his life and took major safety precautions while crashing a far-right rally in Washington state this summer for his filmed-in-secret Borat sequel, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
In an op-ed for Time, the comedian and actor got serious about Donald Trump’s presidency and his feelings about the rise of antisemitism, white supremacy, conspiracy theories and more from America’s conservative right, calling today “a uniquely dangerous moment.” Cohen used several examples from across his career to explain why he decided to come forward and, using his own voice instead of a character’s, is taking a public stance on today’s issues.
These instances were moments the actor said made him “genuinely” fear for his life and included his more recent surprise appearance at a conservative rally held in Olympia, Washington, where he led part of an estimated 500-person crowd in a singalong featuring racist lyrics. As part of the op-ed, the Trial of the Chicago 7 star detailed the experience from his perspective, declaring that he was “fortunate to make it out in one piece.”
“While filming my latest Borat film, I showed up as a right-wing singer at a gun-rights rally in Washington State. When organizers finally stormed the stage, I rushed to a nearby get-away vehicle,” he wrote. “An angry crowd blocked our way and started pounding on the vehicle with their fists.”
As members of the crowd swarmed and attacked the vehicle, Cohen — who revealed he was wearing a bulletproof vest — said that’s when things got really dangerous as armed attendees breached the vehicle in an attempt to pull him out.
“Under my overalls, I was wearing a bulletproof vest, but it felt inadequate with some people outside toting semiautomatic weapons,” he wrote. “When someone ripped open the door to drag me out, I used my entire body weight to pull the door back shut until our vehicle maneuvered free.”
Much of what had previously been known about the Olympia Heritage Park event, which was dubbed “March for Our Rights 3,” has come from videos made by those who attended or statements from right-wing rally organizers The Washington State Three Percenters.
In videos posted to Twitter, an event organizer states that Cohen had posed as a political-action committee leader willing to sponsor the event, provide security and add a new band to the schedule. The rally organizers went on to say that Cohen’s act was added at the last minute by the production company sponsoring the event, which the group had not previously worked with.
In videos of the performance itself, Cohen is overheard encouraging the audience to sing lyrics like, “Obama, what we gotta do? / Inject him with the Wuhan flu” and “Corona is a liberal hoax.” Other lyrics singled out Hillary Clinton, Dr. Anthony Fauci, CNN, Chinese people and mask wearers.
The stunt was one of a several, including a prank call involving former New York City mayor and Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani, that the comedian staged for his Borat 2 movie. Distributed by Amazon and slated for release Oct. 23 ahead of the 2020 presidential election, the movie’s trailer also features Cohen crashing a Mike Pence appearance at a conservative convention.