Sacha Baron Cohen, CBS Corp. and Showtime Networks were sued by former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who claims the satirist tricked him into appearing on his “Who Is America?” show and made Moore look like a pedophile and sex offender.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Washington with claims of defamation and fraud. It seeks $95 million in damages.
Moore says in his complaint that he has “suffered extreme emotional distress” by being “falsely portrayed, mocked and defamed as a sex offender and pedophile.”
In “Who Is America?” Baron Cohen adopted personas such as a far-right conspiracy theorist and an ex-convict while interviewing political figures, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, former presidential candidate Jill Stein and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). Many of the interview subjects later criticized Baron Cohen for misleading them.
Showtime, a CBS unit, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Moore alleges that Baron Cohen and his agents lured him onto the program in February just two months after the Republican judge was narrowly defeated in his race for the U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. He was dogged by allegations in the election that he’d inappropriately touched underage girls while he was in his 30s, allegations that he denied.
Moore claims he was told that the appearance was sought by an Israeli program called Yerushalayim TV and that during it he’d receive an award for his strong support of Israel, spurring him and his wife to fly to Washington. Yerushalayim TV turned out to be fictional.
Once there, Baron Cohen — in character as former Israeli anti-terrorism agent Erran Morad — mocked Moore and even subjected him to scanning with a fake army device that he said was meant to detect pedophiles. The program, which aired July 29, was televised over Moore’s subsequent protests to CBS once he learned the truth.
Baron Cohen is no stranger to controversy. The British comedian has had his greatest successes inhabiting personas such as wannabe rapper Ali G, Kazakh journalist Borat and gay Austrian fashionista Bruno. Two college students sued Baron Cohen over his film “Borat,” and a charity worker sued him over his film “Bruno.”