Showtime is defending Sacha Baron Cohen against stolen valor claims after Sarah Palin accused the famed prankster of disguising himself as a wounded veteran in order to score an interview with her.
“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,” Showtime said in a statement Monday.
“Baron Cohen did not present himself as a disabled veteran, and viewers nationwide who watched the premiere on Sunday can now attest to that,” the statement continued. “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, he did not wear military apparel of any kind.”
Mrs. Palin sparked an uproar against the network last week after she claimed in a Facebook post that she was duped into an interview with Mr. Cohen, who “heavily disguised himself as a disabled US Veteran, fake wheelchair and all.”
“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,” the former Alaska governor wrote. “The disrespect of our US military and middle-class Americans via Cohen’s foreign commentaries under the guise of interview questions was perverse.”
Mrs. Palin’s accusation sparked a #BoycottShowtime social media campaign.
Conservative street artist Sabo took over a billboard and a bus stop sign near CBS Studios in Los Angeles, with the words “Stolen Valor” and a picture of Mr. Cohen sitting in a wheelchair and wearing an Army T-shirt and Make America Great Again hat.