Showtime Defends Sacha Baron Cohen After Backlash Over New Series

Showtime is all in on its new series by Sacha Baron Cohen, even jumping in to defend some of the characters he plays on Who Is America.

The cable network has made waves in the last few weeks as it has revealed an all new series from Cohen, who has been back to his deep undercover antics. However, as the series gains notoriety there has been backlash over a rumor concerning one of Cohen's characters, The Wrap reports.

Cohen interviewed Bernie Sanders and Sarah Palin under the guise of Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., Ph.D. The fictional "veteran" of the United Parcel Service was shown riding a scooter. In her Facebook post raging about the phony interview, Palin also referred to him as "disabled." Real-life veterans and disabled people were furious at this misrepresentation, feeling it went too far. However, Showtime had an easy answer for that.

"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?" the network said in a statement provided to The Wrap on 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. 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."

While Cohen explained the joke in the premiere, some were still concerned about the upcoming interview with Palin. Showtime directly contradicted the former Alaskan governor.

"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," the statement said. "In both the interview with Governor Palin and the interview with Senator Sanders, he did not wear military apparel of any kind."

Cohen himself has built up a Twitter account for his Ruddick character, where he replied to Palin's furious post.

"I did NOT say I was a War Vet," he wrote in character. "I was in the service — not military, but United Parcel. I only fought for my country once — when I shot a Mexican who came onto my property. (Coincidentally, just like our Great President, I was sadly prevented from joining the regular army on account of bone spurs being discovered in my testies.)"

The show features Cohen deeply in character for long stretches of time as he interviews oblivious politicians, lobbyists and other major figures. Many times, the joke centers around his escalation of the premise as his interviewee plays along.


Who Is America airs on Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.