Roy Moore sues Sacha Baron Cohen for defamation over TV stunt

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Composite image of Roy Moore and Sacha Baron Cohen.
Reuters

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Roy Moore (L) says he was tricked into appearing on Sacha Baron Cohen’s show

Former US Senate candidate Roy Moore is suing the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen for defamation after falling victim to a TV show prank.

In a sketch for his series Who Is America?, Baron Cohen pretends to be an Israeli anti-terrorism expert demonstrating a “paedophile detector”.

When the “device” is waved near Mr Moore, it beeps.

In last year’s Senate campaign, Mr Moore was dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denies.

His lawyers say the satirist falsely accused their client of being a sex offender. They are seeking $95m (£73m) in damages from Baron Cohen and from the Showtime and CBS networks.

Representatives for Baron Cohen have not responded to the lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Washington. A spokeswoman for Showtime said it did not comment on pending litigation.

Mr Moore, 71, stood as a Republican candidate in last year’s Senate race in his home state of Alabama, but lost to Democratic opponent Doug Jones.

He had been expected to win in the conservative state, but his campaign was dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct with teenagers. He denies any wrongdoing.

In May, Mr Moore filed a defamation lawsuit against women who made allegations against him, saying they were part of a “political conspiracy” to undermine his campaign.

‘Severe stress’

Mr Moore said he had travelled to Washington to appear on what he thought was an Israeli TV show in the belief that he was to receive an award for his pro-Israel stance.

The complaint says: “Defendant Cohen’s character falsely and fraudulently introduced a false and fraudulent ‘device’ supposedly invented by the Israeli Army to detect paedophiles.

“During the segment, Defendant Cohen’s ‘device’ – as part of the false and fraudulent routine – purports to detect Judge Moore as a sex offender, thus defaming him.”

The complaint says Mr Moore, his wife and their whole family suffered “severe emotional distress and pain… especially given his status as a prominent conservative and God fearing person of faith”.

In the show broadcast in the US in July, when the beep sounds, Mr Moore tells Baron Cohen: “I support Israel. I don’t support this kind of stuff.” He then walks out.

Mr Moore was not the first public figure duped into a fake interview in a Baron Cohen show.

In July, Georgia lawmaker Jason Spencer, ridiculed for dropping his trousers and using racial slurs on Who Is America?, said he would resign.

The Republican state representative initially refused to quit after the show aired.

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