How does Sacha Baron Cohen keep forcing American leaders to sit for his fake interviews?
E-mail correspondence between Cohen's team and former MP Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), Received from POLITICO and reproduced here, offers some answers.
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Fifteen years after "Da Ali G Show" has led prominent politicians to make embarrassing television interviews, the British comedian's new show in American politics brings more devastation. Voters rightly wondered how the people charged with governing them continued to fall on Cohen's lists.
In Walsh's case, Cohen's team used fake identities and dummy websites and invented media opportunities over the course of several months. It was also based on flattery, intrigue, and the disarming use of the word "Liberty" to get the former member of the congress to a television appearance campaigning to arm young children with heavy weapons.
Walsh was among four current and former Republican members of Congress who advocated a false program to teach preschoolers a firearms education in interviews with Cohen, who posed as Israeli counterterrorism expert named Col. Erran Morad for his new Showtime offer series, "Who is America?"
Last October, a woman named Ashley Winthrop sent Walsh on behalf of the fictional production company First Liberty Pictures and invited him to be interviewed on Israeli television for a "documentary series" about terrorism being interviewed.
"For appearing in front of the camera," suggested Winthrop, "Walsh" would meet with a gentleman from Israel who … developed unique anti-extremist techniques of which very few in the world know. "
Turning Around These unique and little-known techniques included a sophisticated program to educate children up to the age of three to use semi-automatic rifles and teach "rudimentary mortar knowledge".
But Walsh, who is now a radio show host, would not learn from this fictitious firearms program for several months. Walsh's wife, Helene, who treats his schedule, responded to interest, but a proposed December interview came through.
Cohen's team unerringly tried a different tactic: flattery.
In February, Walsh received a request from "Alexis Rothe" from the fictional Yerushalayim Television. In an e-mail, "Rothe" told Walsh that he had been included in Israel's "70 in 70" list in honor of the country's 70th anniversary.
"The people of Israel understand that they owe their existence to the unwavering support of powerful figures such as Congressman Joe Walsh," she wrote. "We've already had dinner with Tony Blair, Rupert Murdoch, Larry Ellison, Bono and Steven Spielberg."
This time the former congressman was successful in making the proposed interview appointment.
Unfortunately for the Walshes, they seem to have forgotten Ronald Reagan's dictum "Trust, but Verify".
Walsh's wife checked out the website domain from which Alexis sent him an email, yerushalayimtv.com, which now no longer exists, and appeared to list television content in Hebrew.
"We did not read Hebrew, so we could not verify ourselves," she told POLITICO.
So Helene Walsh wrote to "Rothe" and asked: "Could you please send me the website for Yerushaleyim TV? I would like to review the sender / company / content."
Cohens Team ignored the request, but Walsh went ahead and sat down anyway for an interview. In a studio in Washington at the end of February, Cohen's team presented the former congressman with a genuine statuette for his false award for "significant contributions to the state of Israel." Walsh went on to give a warm camera advocacy of the plan to arm young children.
A few days later, the Walshes returned to Chicago and asked the Israeli Consulate to visit Yerushalayim's website. The consulate told them the website was fake, and the Walshes contacted a lawyer. The couple considered hiring a private detective, but decided it was too expensive and instead resigned to waiting for the video to be published.
"We should have done more homework," said Helene Walsh.
In addition to Walsh, GOP Reps. Joe Wilson of South Carolina and Dana Rohrabacher of California and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi all seemed to support the program in interviews with Cohen. Such as Larry Pratt, emeritus managing director of Gun Owners of America.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) Said for an interview, but refused to support the arming of toddlers.
On Twitter, Walsh has made it clear that he does not really support kindergartens and has started the episode. "It's about me," he tweeted. "Sacha fooled me well."
Others were less gracious. The disgraced candidate of the former Alabama Senate, Roy Moore, threatened legal action after learning that he had been deceived.
And in a Facebook post last week, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin wrote: "I join a long list of American personalities who have fallen victim to the evil, exploitative, sick humor of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, supported and sponsored by CBS / Showtime. "
In Palin's case, she wrote that she had been contacted through her speaker office and said she would attend a historical documentary.
In her post, Palin Cohen accused of posing as a disabled veteran, a Charge denying Showtime, and challenged the show's creators to donate proceeds from a veteran charity program.
Meanwhile, Rohrabacher's challenger, Democrat Harley Rouda, is making an election campaign in Southern California over Rohrabacher's appearance in the series. After the premiere on Sunday evening, Rouda issued a statement condemning "Rohrabacher's push to arm children".
Rohrabacher's office has published its own statement stating that the Congressman does not support arming children. "On the whole, I've talked about training young people in a responsible age in self-defense, and I've never advocated toddler training in dealing with weapons," said Rohrabacher. "I love good satire, but good satire must really reveal a base, that was cheating, a sick scam."
Cohen secured under false pretense interviews with Bernie Sanders and Dick Cheney. And after a tweet by conservative internet publisher Matt Drudge, Cohen has deceived former Vermont governor Howard Dean, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, David Petraeus and Ted Koppel.
So successful has Cohen been to deceive the nation's political elites that viewers can ponder the decline of civilization.
Christy Cones, a Californian art expert who sat for a fake interview with Cohen, is sure. "We live in a time of debauchery and decadence that might even astonish the Roman Empire," Cones, who also heads a charitable sports foundation, told POLITICO, adding, "Sacha is a total genius."