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One day before Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show Who Is America? premiered, former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh attempted to clarify his participation in Showtime’s satirical series.
In the first episode of Who Is America?, Cohen — posing as a fake Israeli “anti-terror expert” named Col. Erran Morad — easily convinced multiple former and current Republican members of Congress, including Walsh, to participate in a PSA encouraging Americans to support a program called “Kinderguardians” that would teach 4-year-olds how to shoot guns.
During a Saturday appearance on CNN, Walsh — now a conservative radio host — explained why he appeared to be supporting the idea of arming toddlers with guns.
“After they conducted an interview, they had me read off of a teleprompter talking about some of the innovative products that Israel invented,” Walsh said on CNN. “Then they had me read about this 4-year-old child in Israel who, when a terrorist entered his classroom, somehow he grabbed the terrorist’s gun and held the terrorist at bay. And that was an example of how Israel trains and arms preschool kids on how to use firearms, and boy shouldn’t we do that in America?”
Walsh said that Cohen was able to persuade him into appearing on the show by offering him “an award from some Israeli TV station because I’m a great supporter of Israel.”
On Who Is America?, Walsh read the following from a script written by Cohen: “The intensive, three-week Kinderguardian course introduces specially selected children from 12 to 4 years old to pistols, rifles, semiautomatics and a rudimentary knowledge of mortars. In less than a month — less than a month — a first-grader can become a first-grenade-er. Happy shooting, kids.” (Watch the clip, below.)
Walsh told CNN that while he was reading it, he thought to himself, “Well, this is kind of crazy, but it is Israel and Israel is strong on defense.”
After the show aired on Sunday night, Walsh continued to explain away his participation in the sketch, which also targeted gun rights advocate Philip Van Cleave, Gun Owners of America founder Larry Pratt, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Republican Rep. from California Dana Rohrabacher, Republican Rep. from South Carolina Joe Wilson and Republican Rep. from Florida Matt Gaetz.
In response to several media members who reached out on Twitter, Walsh said, “Do I believe kindergarteners should be armed? Hell no. But, it’s on me. Sacha fooled me good. Flew me out to DC for some made up friend of Israel award. I gotta live with it.”
After admitting it was “my screw up,” he wrote, in part, in another tweet, “I gotta own what I said… The entire thing was a big lie. But he got me to read 30 seconds of crazy stuff about guns.”
Explaining that he was “reading from a TelePrompTer,” he added: “I was reading about what Israel does. This was after being flown out to DC to get a friend of Israel award, a 45 min made up interview about my support for Israel. Wedged in there was this sliver about kids and guns. And no, I don’t believe we should train & arm kindergarteners.”
I was reading from a TelePrompTer, promoting various Israeli innovation. I read a story about a child in Israel who stopped a terrorist. I then read about Israel training children on firearms. I thought it was extreme, but often Israel must be extreme. The story was a lie. 1) https://t.co/tO0B333g79
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) July 15, 2018
Last week, Walsh urged his social media followers to #BoycottShowtime, and said Cohen’s “tactics are disgusting.” He continued, “I was rushed to the studio, production was a mess, I sat down and we started talking pro-Israel stuff, Israeli defense, and then out of left field the interviewer starts talking about how children should defend themselves against terrorist attacks.”
As a “side note,” Walsh also defended Sarah Palin, who said last week that she was “duped” into an interview with Cohen and claimed that the comic disguised himself as a wounded U.S. war vet.
“I totally get @SachaBaronCohen’s gig,” Walsh tweeted. “He’s a comedian, and he can be funny, but mocking a disabled veteran to spoof @SarahPalinUSA is a serious matter. I am just telling you what I encountered – it was much of the same she experienced.”
On Monday, a Hollywood billboard was hijacked to target the prankster himself, Baron Cohen, over his wounded veteran character that duped Palin and Ted Koppel. Other public figures who have spoken out about being duped on the series include Koppel, Roy Moore and radio host Austin Rhodes. Bernie Sanders was one of the political targets in the premiere.
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