The South Carolina congressman who screamed “You lie” at President Barack Obama says he was the target of a prank by a comedian notorious for twisting American politicians into problematic rhetorical knots.
Congressman Joe Wilson says he was targeted by Sasha Baron Cohen, who debuted a new Showtime project on Sunday night called “Who Is America?”
Wilson told the The State that he thought the meeting would be about his history as a pro-Israel lawmaker when he met with Cohen masquerading as military officer and terrorism expert “Col. Erran Morad.”
The segment, about a fake program called “Kinder Guardians” designed to train young children to combat mass shootings. In addition to Wilson, a preview of the sketch posted on YouTube before the Sunday premiere also features pro-gun group leaders, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and Joe Walsh, an ex-congressman now working as a conservative pundit. [image-2] “A three year old cannot defend itself from an assault rifle by throwing a Hello Kitty pencil case at it,” Wilson appeared to read from a teleprompter. “Our founding fathers did not put an age limit on the Second Amendment.”
To his credit, Wilson gets the least amount of screen time of all the officials in the preview, and though he went through with the taping, he appears a bit more skeptical than the rest. In an interview with CNN, Walsh said that he agreed to read the selection on camera after a fake group presented him with a fake award for his support of Israel. [image-1] Cohen’s team somehow managed to get Walsh to say that in the “Kinder Guardians” program, “In less than a month, a first grader can become a first grenader.” A former Gun Owners of America leader read copy that claimed children under five “have elevated levels of the pheromone ‘Blink 182.'”
It’s unclear the exact circumstances of Wilson’s appearance. (Will report back if/when Showtime bestows us with a copy of the segment.)
The preview of the segment appears to highlight Republican hypocrisy over ongoing push for expanded gun rights as mass shooting events continue to occur. But liberal figures have also been duped by Cohen for upcoming shows, including former DNC leader Howard Dean and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Conservative talking heads like former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Joe Arpaio were also reportedly tricked by Cohen.
Sunday’s premiere also includes other segments which don’t land quite as well as Cohen’s Morad bit. NPR called the episode as a whole “hit-and-miss.” Vulture has at least five write-ups on the episode already, because Vulture, and they rank Wilson’s as the #4 “most damning” appearance on the show right behind Walsh. Another take worth considering is Vox culture writer Aja Romero’s pre-show assertion that Cohen’s fake interviews are a “bad match for our current cultural climate.”
“Who Is America?” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.