On Wednesday, failed Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore sued comedian Sacha Baron Cohen for defamation after Moore unwittingly appeared on Cohen’s prank interview show “Who Is America?”. Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, was accused of child molestation and sexual assault during his Senate race last year. He is seeking $95 million from Cohen and CBS (the parent company of Showtime, which airs the series).
What does defamation mean?
According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School, defamation is a statement that injures someone’s reputation. It encompasses libel (written statements) and slander (spoken statements).
To prove defamation, a defendant has to show that the statement was a) false but purported to be fact; b) published or said by a third person; c) resulted from a fault that was at least negligence; and d) caused damages, or harm caused to the person or entity who is the subject of the statement.
Truth is an absolute defense against charges of defamation. Public figures who allege they’ve been defamed have to show that the statement was made with “actual malice,” or knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false.
Why is Roy Moore suing Sacha Baron Cohen for defamation?
Moore appeared on the July 29 episode of “Who Is America?” On the show, Cohen appeared as different characters interviewing real-life figures from the news, who are not in on the joke — a premise similar to his hit “Ali G Show” from the early ’00s. Playing an “Israeli terrorism expert,” Cohen held a “pedophile detector” near Moore, which began to beep during their interview.
In the suit, which was filed in Washington, D.C., Moore said he was invited by a program called “Yerushalem TV” to receive an award for his “strong support of Israel.” Instead, he got pranked.
“Sasha Baron Cohen, who is not only low class but also a fraudster, will now, along with Showtime and CBS, be held accountable for his outrageous and false, fraudulent and defamatory conduct which callously did great emotional and other damage to (this) great man and his wife and family,” said Moore’s attorney Larry Klayman in a statement.
Spokespeople for CBS and Cohen haven’t commented.
“Who Is America?” attracted some buzz earlier this summer for an interview in which Cohen persuaded a Georgia state lawmaker to drop his pants and shout a racial slur. GOP politicians Sarah Palin and Rep. Dana Rohrbacher have also appeared on the first season of the program.