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Roy Moore sues Sacha Baron Cohen over ‘defamatory’ TV prank

September 5, 2018

This combination photo shows Sacha Baron Cohen, left, at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. on March 4, 2018, and former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore at a news conference in Birmingham, Ala., on Nov. 16, 2017. Moore is suing comedian Sacha Baron Cohen for defamation after being pranked on Cohen’s television show, "Who is America?" The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Washington, D.C., accuses Cohen of smearing Moore's name and intentionally inflicting emotional distress. (AP Photo)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore on Wednesday sued comedian Sacha Baron Cohen for defamation and emotional distress after being pranked on the actor’s television show.

The lawsuit appears to be the first actually filed by one of the string of politicians who were duped and humiliated by Baron Cohen on the show “Who is America.”

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in Washington, D.C., accuses Baron Cohen of defaming Moore and says Moore “suffered extreme emotional distress” as a result of “being falsely portrayed as a sex offender and pedophile” on the show. Moore was duped into appearing on a segment where Baron Cohen demonstrated a supposed pedophile detecting device that beeped when it came near Moore.

During last year’s Senate race, Moore faced accusations that he pursued romantic and sexual relationships with teens as young as 14 when he was a prosecutor in his 30s. He has denied the misconduct allegations.

Larry Klayman, founder of the conservative group Freedom Watch, is representing Moore and his wife Kayla in the lawsuit. The complaint names CBS and Showtime as defendants in the case.

“Sasha Baron Cohen, who is not only low class but also a fraudster, will now, along with Showtime and CBS, be held accountable for his outrageous and false, fraudulent and defamatory conduct which callously did great emotional and other damage to his great man and his wife and family,” Klayman said in a statement.

Representatives of Baron Cohen did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the lawsuit.

A Showtime representative wrote in an email that they do not comment on pending litigation, and to their knowledge they had not been served with the complaint.

Klayman said Moore thought he was receiving an award for supporting Israel when he agreed to appear on the show. In the segment, Baron Cohen appeared as the bushy eyebrowed faux counterterrorism instructor “Col. Erran Morad” discussing bogus military technology, including a supposed pedophile detector. The device repeatedly beeped as it got near Moore, who sat stone faced.

The lawsuit asks for $95 million in punitive and compensatory damages.

Baron Cohen’s latest show, which began airing in July, has zinged several other political figures.

In one episode, former Arizona sheriff and Senate candidate Joe Arpaio argued the benefits of gun ownership to a tiny toy doughnut.

Another episode led a Georgia state representative to resign after he shouted racial slurs and exposed his rear end in a supposed anti-terrorism self-defense drill.

Baron Cohen has faced past lawsuits over similar pranks, but those actions faltered because the individuals had signed releases.

A New York judge in 2008 tossed out lawsuits brought by a driving instructor and two etiquette school teachers who said they were duped into appearing in the movie “Borat” in which Baron Cohen plays an awkward foreign journalist traveling the United States. The judge said they accepted money and signed agreements releasing the filmmakers from liability.

Moore’s lawsuit suggests that he too signed a release, but contends it was fraudulently obtained.

Moore’s lawyer wrote that as they trying to stop the segment from airing, “defendants CBS, Showtime and thus Cohen were informed that the release that Judge Moore had signed was obtained through fraud, and was therefore void and inoperative.”

“Had Judge Moore and Mrs. Moore known that ‘Erran Morad’ was Defendant Cohen, Judge Moore would have never agreed to be interviewed,” Moore’s lawyer wrote in the lawsuit.

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