On Monday 15 July 2018 a preview of Sacha Baron Cohen’s new series ‘Who Is America’ was published on Showtime’s Youtube Channel. The 10 minute clip features a number of high-profile American gun supporters who agree to support a programme called ‘Kinder Guardians’ for 4 to 12 year old children.

The interviews are both hilarious and terrifying, as the watcher realises that the interviewees would actually support such an initiative. Some of the best (or worst) bits include:

  1. Philip Van Cleave, the President of the Virginia Citizen’s Defense League, says that he thinks it’s a ‘good idea’ to start the programme and that children would be ‘very effective soldiers’. He proceeds to feed the ‘puppy pistol’ (a real gun with a plush puppy’s head on top) with ‘food’ (a loaded cartridge).
  2. Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Emeritus, Gun Owners America, says in the clip: ‘The great thing about toddlers is that they don’t have any fear of guns’. In perhaps the worst part of the clip Baron Cohen says that his wife has a gun to ward off others, and that she shot him once because he gets ‘horny in the middle of the night’. He finishes with the joke, ‘but it’s not rape if it’s your wife, eh?’. Both laugh, shake hands, and Pratt replies: ‘that probably won’t be on the video we send to the Hill’.
  3. Joe Wilson (Congressman (R)-SC) eloquently notes that ‘Our founding fathers did not put an age limit on the second amendment’.
  4. Joe Walsh (Former Congressman (R)IL) advocates: ‘The intensive Kinder Guardian course introduces specially selected children from 12 to 4 years old to pistols, rifles, semi-automatics and a rudimentary knowledge of mortars’. He triumphantly adds: ’in months a first grader can become a first grenader!’.

Unsurprisingly real-life Internet troll Baron Cohen is being threatened with lawsuits from several of the participants. The Independent reported that defeated US Senate candidate Roy Moore is threatening a defamation lawsuit over a forthcoming episode. In a statement published on Facebook Moore said:

“If Showtime airs a defamatory attack on my character, I may very well be involved in another [suit]. As for Mr. Cohen, whose art is trickery, deception, and dishonesty, Alabama does not respect cowards who exhibit such traits!”

It is unclear how Moore would successfully sue for defamation when the statements supposedly defaming him are likely to have been made by himself.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is running for US Senate in Arizona and also took part in the show, is ‘not sure’ whether he will take action against Baron Cohen.

Prior to the episode airing, Sarah Palin and her daughter flew across the country to meet Baron Cohen disguised as a disabled U.S. veteran, characterising the episode as ‘truly sick’. Somewhat ironically, this outrage gave more publicity to the show and its avid viewers.

According to a Quora article released in June 2018, only one person – Ayman Abu Aita, the Palestinian grocer in Bruno – has successfully sued Baron Cohen. A number of other claimants have been unsuccessful.

Only time will tell if anyone is successful in suing Baron Cohen and/or Showtime for ‘Who is America’. The first episode can be watched in full on Showtime using its free trial.

Oscar Davies is a media lawyer who will start pupillage at One Brick Court in October 2019.