Showtime on Monday denied that comedian Sacha Baron Cohen had posed as a disabled veteran while interviewing politicians for his new satirical series Who Is America?, an allegation made by Sarah Palin last week.
In a statement, the network said that Baron-Cohen’s character Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr, PhD never claimed to Palin to have served to have served in the military.
Who is America? is along the lines of the Borat actor’s hit British series Da Ali G Show and features the comedian assuming a fictional identity while interviewing a host of prominent personalities. The first episode of the series was premiered on Sunday and featured an interview with Senator Bernie Sanders.
“Baron Cohen did not present himself as a disabled veteran, and viewers nationwide who watched the premiere on Sunday can now attest to that,” Showtime’s statement read. “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.”
The statement also referenced the interview with Palin, which is likely to be aired in coming episodes of the seven-part series. “Baron-Cohen never presented himself as a veteran of the US 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, he did not wear military apparel of any kind.”
Palin had claimed that Baron-Cohen had duped her daughter and her into giving an interview by posing as a wounded veteran. “For my interview, my daughter and I were asked to travel across the country where Cohen (I presume) had heavily disguised himself as a disabled US Veteran, fake wheelchair and all,” Palin had written in a post on Facebook. “Out of respect for what I was led to believe would be a thoughtful discussion with someone who had served in uniform, 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, much to Cohen’s chagrin.”
Baron Cohen responded to Palin’s allegations through an open letter shared on a Twitter handle created for Dr Ruddick on July 12, saying that he did not serve in the “regular army” but in United Parcel, a package delivery company
After Palin, Conservative radio host Joe Walsh and Republican politician Roy Moore also said that they had been tricked into appearing on the show.
On Monday, Conservative street artist Sabo replaced a billboard near Showtime’s parent company CBS’s Los Angeles offices with a doctored image of Cohen in a wheelchair wearing an Army t-shirt. Bearing the CBS logo, the new billboard was captioned “Sacha Baron Cohen walks away with a hit...and a touch of stolen valor.”