Provocative British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s new television show is making headlines in the United States even before its first episode is aired, with conservative figures Sarah Palin and Joe Walsh saying they were duped by him.
“Who is America?”, due to launch on Sunday on cable channel Showtime, has been shrouded in secrecy apart from a trailer showing former US defense secretary Dick Cheney signing a large bottle described as a water-boarding kit.
The seven-episode series marks Baron Cohen’s first television project in a decade after he launched his comedy career as subversive white English rapper Ali G., whose interviews included Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich. His 2006 faux documentary film “Borat” ridiculed Kazakhstan and Middle America.
Palin, the 2008 U.S. vice-presidential candidate, says she was tricked into an interview, ostensibly about American veterans, by a person dressed as a disabled U.S. serviceman.
Former Republican Rep. Joe Walsh, now a conservative talk radio host, said he was persuaded to do an interview on Israel. Walsh also called for a boycott of Showtime, a unit of CBS.
Showtime had no comment on Wednesday on the accounts by Palin and Walsh and has declined to give details of the series, or who will be appearing.
“I join a long list of American public personalities who have fallen victim to the evil, exploitive, sick ‘humor’ of the British ‘comedian’ Sacha Baron Cohen,” Palin wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
Palin said a man she believed to be Cohen “heavily disguised himself as a disabled US Veteran, fake wheelchair and all … I sat through a long ‘interview’ full of Hollywoodism’s disrespect and sarcasm — but finally had enough and literally, physically removed my mic and walked out.”
Walsh tweeted on Wednesday that he believed Palin’s account because “i too was duped … it was much of the same she experienced.”
Walsh, who has strong pro-Israel views, said he was invited to a dinner for defenders of Israel and asked to film an interview.
“I was rushed to the studio, production was a mess, I sat down and we started talking pro-Israel stuff, Israeli defense, and then out of left field the interviewer starts talking about how children should defend themselves against terrorist attacks,” Walsh tweeted.
He said he “stopped and questioned their direction” and then producers “rushed me out of the studio as an apparent fight broke out. Strangest interview of my life.”
Walsh included the hashtag #boycottShowtime on his series of tweets, while Palin asked Baron Cohen and Showtime to donate the proceeds from the show “to a charitable group that actually respects and supports American Vets.”