In a shocking segment from Sunday night’s episode of his Showtime series, Who Is America?, Sacha Baron Cohen convinces Jason Spencer, a Georgia Republican state representative, to repeatedly shout the “n-word,” use an ethnic slur against Arabs and drop his pants to “intimidate ISIS.”
During the prank, Cohen plays the character Erran Morad, an Israeli antiterrorism expert who teaches Spencer how to avoid a terrorist kidnapping. “You have three seconds to attract attention,” the satirist says, adding, “In America, there is one forbidden word. It is the ‘n-word’.” Spencer then begins screaming the racial slur as Cohen apprehends him with a finger gun.
In another shocking moment, Spencer plays along as Cohen details a technique for identifying a terrorist wearing a burqa by using a selfie stick and photographing the person’s genitals. As a practice distraction technique, the lawmaker affects a sterotypical Asian accent and shouts random words – “sushi,” “chopstick” – to convince bystanders that he’s a “Chinese tourist.” Later, he pulls down his pants and runs backwards into the actor while screaming “America!” – a demonstration of how to “intimidate ISIS” with the threat of homosexuality.
In a post-credits video titled “A Message to Terrorists from Rep. Jason Spencer,” the lawmaker brandishes a knife and uses an ethnic slur. “We will cut off your dick, you understand?” he says to terrorists. “We will take your dick and we will shove it in your mouth. How are you going to rape children and women without a dick?”
— 🌷Deb 💫 (@Dee_NY45) July 23, 2018
Spencer also addresses a failed 2016 bill he introduced that would have prohibited people from concealing their faces in public. “I don’t call it a burqa ban – I call it an anti-masking statute,” he tells Cohen. “To win in the legal system, you cannot be against the First Amendment.”
Other Georgia leaders condemned Spencer’s behavior on Monday after the episode aired. David Ralston, speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, called for Spencer’s resignation and called his actions “reprehensible.” “Representative Spencer has disgraced himself and should resign immediately,” he said, The New York Times reports. “Georgia is better than this.”
Governor Nathan Deal added that “the actions and language used by Jason Spencer are appalling and offensive.” He tweeted, “There is no excuse for this type of behavior, ever, and I am saddened and disgusted by it.”
The campaign of Brian Kemp, a Republican candidate for governor, labeled Spencer’s behavior “hurtful, insensitive and completely unacceptable,” adding that he should “issue a public apology for this shameful incident.”
Spencer dismissed calls for his resignation in a series of text messages issued to The Washington Post, claiming that Cohen “took advantage” of him.
“In 2017 I received countless death threats in connection with my introduction of legislation involving the wearing of masks,” he wrote. “The threats escalated to the point that my wife received threatening phone calls concerning her and my children. I was very afraid for my safety and the safety of my entire family. Then, on June 14th, a gunman opened fire at members of Congress on a baseball field. I knew people on that field.
“Now, the fears I already had became more intensified as the reality of my family being targeted by a similar, deranged, would-be assassin became even more possible. I was in such a poor state of mind that my wife and I also undertook marriage counseling with a licensed therapist during this time. Sacha Baron Cohen and his associates took advantage of my paralyzing fear that my family would be attacked. In posing as an Israeli Agent, he pretended to offer self-defense exercises.
“As uncomfortable as I was to participate, I agreed to, understanding that these ‘techniques’ were meant to help me and others fend off what I believed was an inevitable attack. My fears were so heightened at that time, I was not thinking clearly nor could I appreciate what I was agreeing to when I participated in his ‘class.’ I was told I would be filmed as a ‘demonstration video’ to teach others the same skills in Israel. Sacha and his crew further lied to me, stating that I would be able to review and have final approval over any footage used.
“I deeply regret the language I used at his request as well as my participation in the ‘class’ in general. If I had not been so distracted by my fears, I never would have agreed to participate in the first place. I apologize to my family, friends, and the people of my district for this ridiculously ugly episode. Finally, there are calls for me to resign. I recently lost my primary election, so I will not be eligible to hold office next term. Therefore, I will finish the remaining five months at my post and vacate my seat.”