MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore says he didn’t know he was dealing with comedian Sacha Baron Cohen when he agreed to appear on a television show, his lawyers wrote in court filings last month.
Moore in September filed a $95 million defamation lawsuit over his appearance on Baron Cohen’s “Who is America?” In court filings, Moore argued the agreement he signed waiving legal claims from the appearance is unenforceable because of fraud.
Moore said he was told he was receiving an award for supporting Israel and instead was lampooned as a possible pedophile. Moore said the agreement he signed had “zero” mention of Cohen.
The segment ran after Moore faced misconduct accusations during the 2017 Senate race in Alabama. He denied the accusations.
In the segment, Baron Cohen appeared as faux counterterrorism instructor “Col. Erran Morad,” discussing bogus military technology, including a supposed pedophile detector. The device repeatedly beeped as it got near Moore, who sat stone-faced.
Moore signed an agreement with Yerushalayim TV, a company registered in Wyoming, waiving all legal claims from the appearance.
Defense lawyers wrote in court filings that Yerushalayim TV is wholly owned by Cohen. Moore’s attorneys wrote that the agreement did not disclose the intent of the program and who was behind it.
“The first misrepresentation was that Judge Moore was being flown to Washington D.C. to receive an award for his support of Israel, when in actuality it was so that he could be falsely portrayed as a pedophile on national television. …. It is clear that defendants knew that they had to disguise their identity, otherwise plaintiffs would never have agreed to appear on “Who is America?” Moore’s attorney wrote.
The agreement Moore signed mandates disputes will be heard in New York. In the court filing, Moore opposes moving the lawsuit from Washington D.C., where the segment was filmed, to New York.
Baron Cohen has faced past lawsuits over similar pranks, but those actions faltered because the individuals had signed releases.
A New York judge in 2008 tossed out lawsuits brought by a driving instructor and two etiquette school teachers who said they were duped into appearing in the movie “Borat” in which Baron Cohen plays an awkward foreign journalist traveling the United States. The judge said they accepted money and signed agreements releasing the filmmakers from liability.
Moore agreed to accept $200 for the charity of his choice, according to the agreement.