Showtime Defends Sacha Baron Cohen

According to Variety, Showtime is countering the accusations that Sacha Baron Cohen pretended to be a veteran living with disabilities for his new show Who Is America?

The network refuted the accusation that one of Cohen’s characters, Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., Ph.D., claimed to have served in the military. These accusations come from former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, who claimed this past week that she was “duped” into participating in an interview with Cohen, adding that, at the time, he had presented himself as a veteran with a disability.

In a detailed post on Facebook, Palin wrote, “I sat through a long ‘interview’ full of Hollywoodism’s [sic] disrespect and sarcasm — but finally had enough and literally, physically removed my mic and walked out. The disrespect of our US military and middle-class Americans via Cohen’s foreign commentaries under the guise of interview questions was perverse.”

“Mock politicians and innocent public personalities all you want, if that lets you sleep at night,” she added, “but HOW DARE YOU mock those who have fought and served our country. Truly sick.”

In the first episode of the series, which premiered Sunday, none of Sacha Baron Cohen’s characters or personas claimed to be a disabled veteran.

A spokesperson for Showtime released a statement on Monday, saying, “There has been widespread misinformation over the past week about the character of Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., Ph.D., performed by Sacha Baron Cohen on the Showtime comedy series Who Is America?

“Baron Cohen did not present himself as a disabled veteran,” the spokesperson continued, “and viewers nationwide who watched the premiere on Sunday can now attest to that.

“In Sunday’s episode, during an interview with Senator Bernie Sanders, Baron Cohen in character as Dr. Ruddick was asked by the Senator if he is disabled, and he stated that he is not and uses a mobility scooter to conserve his energy.

“In addition, Baron Cohen never presented himself as a veteran of the U.S. military to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin during the booking process or during the filming of her interview, and contrary to her claims he did not appear in a wheelchair.”

“In both the interview with Governor Palin and the interview with Senator Sanders,” Showtime’s spokesperson confirmed, “he did not wear military apparel of any kind.”

An unknown street artist reportedly replaced a billboard’s of Cohen’s new series in Los Angeles on Monday with a photoshopped picture of a military clad Cohen in a wheelchair. The doctored billboard simply read, “Sacha Baron Cohen walks away with a hit … and a touch of stolen valor.”

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