Showtime Responded To Critics Of Sacha Baron Cohen's Who Is America
Sacha Baron Cohen made a divisive return to television this month with the premiere of Who Is America? on Showtime. The show features Baron Cohen portraying characters and then going out into the real world to interact with and interview real people, including some famous faces. He's so convincing in his characters that some of the people he talked to had no idea that a comedian was underneath the wigs and makeup, and not all of his subjects were happy about it. Some folks on social media have condemned the show due to how Baron Cohen allegedly presented himself, but Showtime isn't just going to take the criticism. The network released a statement after reactions to his interviews with Sarah Palin and Bernie Sanders:
During Sacha Baron Cohen's interview with Bernie Sanders -- yes, the real Bernie Sanders -- as the character "Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr.," Baron Cohen sat in a mobilized scooter, which led some to believe that he was presenting himself as a disabled person. The first episode that aired on July 15 clarified that Billy Wayne Ruddick used a scooter to conserve energy rather than because of any disability, although it's possible that the episode didn't reach enough people to quell any fury that broke out due to early footage and/or what has been posted on social media. Baron Cohen wasn't entirely honest in his interview with Bernie Sanders, but he didn't mislead Sanders that he was disabled, and Showtime wanted to make sure everybody understands that distinction.
The bad rap Sacha Baron Cohen got for allegedly presenting himself as an American veteran is due to Sarah Palin. She was one of the high-profile subjects interviewed by one of Baron Cohen's characters, and she did not take kindly to the reveal that the person she interacted with was actually a persona invented by somebody in showbiz. Palin took to Facebook to share her thoughts, claiming that he "heavily disguised himself as a disabled US veteran, fake wheelchair and all."
According to Showtime, at no point did Sacha Baron Cohen claim to be a U.S. military veteran during his interactions with Sarah Palin, nor was he named as a veteran when the interview with Palin was being booked. The network also takes issue with Palin's statement that he conducted the interview from a "fake wheelchair," stating that he did not appear in the wheelchair and he did not wear any kind of military uniform. Palin didn't hold back in condemning Baron Cohen's behavior; Showtime disputes that everything went as Palin claimed on Facebook.
To see Sacha Baron Cohen in action in various characters, tune in to new episodes of Who Is America? on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime. If you're looking for some other viewing options, check out our summer TV premiere guide.
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Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.