NEW YORK, June 10 – A U.S. appeals court in Manhattan on Friday appeared unlikely to revive former Alabama judge Roy Moore‘s Defamation Claims. The lawsuit accused Sacha Baron Cohen of defamation for falsely portraying him as a sex offender on the British comedian’s show “Who Is America?”
Moore, 75, sued for $95 million in September 2018 over an interview in Washington, D.C., where the former Republican chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court and U.S. Senate candidate expected to receive an award for supporting Israel.
Instead, Baron-Cohen, 50, disguised as fictional Israeli anti-terrorism expert Erran Morad, waved a wand-like device that purportedly detected pedophiles, which beeped when waved near Moore, led to Roy Moore’s Defamation Claims.
The interview occurred after Moore had lost his 2017 Senate race in heavily Republican Alabama, following accusations that Moore committed sexual misconduct toward female teenagers while in his 30s.
Moore has denied those accusations, and Baron Cohen’s lawyers have called the device “completely fake.”
During oral arguments before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch suggested that the interview was merely a commentary on the accusations.
“Is there a plausibility to the idea that this magic wand detects pedophiles?” Lynch asked Moore’s lawyer, Larry Klayman. “That’s what Cohen adds to this story. Otherwise, he’s just saying, ‘These are accusations that were made against this man.'”
Klayman countered that calling someone a pedophile was a “smear” worse than labeling him a murderer.
He asked the three-judge panel “to sit in the shoes of Judge Moore, whatever you may think about him.”
“Would you want to be branded a pedophile like this on international television?” he asked.
With little interruption from the panel, Baron Cohen’s lawyer, Elizabeth McNamara, argued that Moore waived his claims by signing a consent agreement to be interviewed. The claims were barred under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
“As the court below found, this was clearly a joke, and no reasonable viewer could have seen it otherwise,” she said. “Whether or not you found it funny, this was satirical commentary.”
“Who Is America?” was broadcast on Paramount Global’s Showtime network, a co-defendant.
Baron Cohen previously prevailed in several lawsuits over his 2006 mockumentary “Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”
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