Attorneys for the American Conservative Union have threatened legal action against filmmaker Sacha Baron Cohen for infiltrating CPAC, accusing him of staging stunts there for his latest “Borat” movie that included the appearance of an actor dressed as a Ku Klux Klansman.
An Oct. 21 letter called on Mr. Baron Cohen to remove “any content” filmed at the Conservative Political Action Conference, including footage of the “fake Klansman” and any ACU and CPAC logos, from the sequel to his 2006 “Borat” movie, which was released Friday on Amazon Prime.
“Any implication that KKK style hatred would be welcome at CPAC is false and malicious,” said the letter from attorneys Charles Spies and Jessica Brouckaert. “We demand that you immediately cease and desist from using any content filmed during CPAC in Borat 2 and its trailer.”
The letter concluded: “Should you not make these modifications to Borat 2, we will vigorously pursue all available legal remedies.”
The attorneys accused Mr. Baron Cohen and Four by Two Films of illegal use of ACU property, false light invasion of ACU and CPAC’s privacy, false endorsement and conspiracy to injure ACU and CPAC.
“While the Borat team, the Fake Klansman, the Democrat party and your associates may find to be funny the trivialization [of] racist and anti-Semitic hatred, conservatives do not think this is a laughing matter,” said the ACU letter.
There is indeed a “fake Klansman” in the “Borat” sequel’s CPAC scenes, which created headaches for security and organizers during the Feb. 26-29 conference at the Gaylord National Resort at National Harbor in Maryland.
In the film, Mr. Baron Cohen’s character is shown briefly dressed in a white KKK-style robe and hood, apparently at the conference, but there was another man, later identified as a professional actor, who walked through the hotel lobby in a Klan costume.
The actor “attempted to attend CPAC under false light and with a malicious purpose,” said the ACU letter. “When CPAC staff first noticed this Fake Klansman interloper, they immediately had the actor, his costume and the Borat entourage removed from the premises and permanently banned from re-entry to any CPAC event.”
That “fake Klansman” had the same high-end lawyer as the Donald Trump impersonator wearing a prosthetic face mask who was intercepted by Secret Service and hotel security after running through the ballroom with a woman over his shoulder, said Ian Walters, ACU communications director.
Mr. Baron Cohen told The New York Times that he was the Trump imposter who charged through the ballroom, saying that he hid in the hotel bathroom for hours after “spending five hours in makeup that morning with the prosthetic team changing my face into Trump’s face.”
Mr. Walters said the “Trump impostor was escorted out of the hotel and immediately picked up by a minivan with security and a lawyer who pops up to make sure that this person is not detained excessively and can leave the premises in this minivan, which is driven by some dudes in black suits.”
The next day, “the Klan guy walks through the Gaylord and is immediately detained by hotel security, is thrown out, name taken, credential taken. He is a Hollywood actor listed on IMDb,” said Mr. Walters. “And the same attorney pops up. So it’s absolutely all connected.”
That might have been the end of it, except that a photo of the fake Klansman was posted briefly on an anonymous Twitter account and “started moving around Facebook,” he said.
“So now I’m in a communications crisis,” Mr. Walters said. “And you’ve got people in Prince George’s County, where we had the event, who are freaking out. My Uber driver picks me and up and says, did you hear about the Klan at that event this weekend?”
He said that “the next thing you know, I’m dealing with the head of Black Lives Matter DC telling me, you need to denounce the Klan at your event. And we understand this is terrible, but it’s not us.”
After the uproar faded, CPAC, working with law enforcement, tracked down the fake Klansman and tied him to an extensive “Borat” operation run out of a nearby hotel that included 14 professionals listed on IMDb as actors, stuntmen, make-up artists and costume designers.
They spent $40,000 on conference tickets alone, but “that purchase of CPAC tickets does not grant you a right to knowingly misrepresent the ACU in a false light and falsely associated the ACU with the KKK and your film,” said the ACU letter.
The Washington Times has reached out to Mr. Baron Cohen’s law firm for comment.
While the movie is satirical, Mr. Walters said there was nothing funny about the KKK episode.
“This could have led to somebody getting shot,” Mr. Walters said. “People were pissed off enough that they were ready to march down to the Gaylord and start kicking ass, because it’s the Klan. And I don’t blame them.”
He said security detained Trump imposters three times during the conference. The third time, the impersonator removed his prosthetics, but he was not Mr. Baron Cohen.
The film also shows the CPAC logo amid footage of Vice President Mike Pence speaking to a crowd of about 4,200 in the ballroom. Mr. Trump also spoke at the event, the largest annual conservative conference in the nation, which drew more than 10,000 attendees.