With all the talk around Roy Moore’s alleged sexual misconduct around young girls, including a Pulitzer-Prize winning article in The Washington Post, it’s hard to believe one actor’s prank could make much of a difference, but Moore alleges it did.
For an episode of his show, Who Is America? that aired on July 29th, Sacha Baron Cohen invited Moore to Washington D.C. under the pretense of an award for Moore’s support of Israel. Instead, Moore met with Cohen disguised as his character, Erran Morad, an Israeli “anti-terrorism expert.”
During a sit-down between “Morad” and Moore, Morad told Moore about a particular enzyme that pedophiles secrete at much higher rates than normal people. He said that Israelis had developed a machine that could detect this enzyme, with the idea being that they could install the machines at school entrances to alert staff of any pedophiles entering the building.
Morad then produced what he claimed was one of these machines, saying it would beep if waved over a pedophile but would remain silent if waved over a normal person. Of course, the “machine” was rigged to beep when waved over Moore, at which point Morad pretended to be confused, claiming the machine must be malfunctioning and asking Moore if the jacket he was wearing belonged to him and whether he had loaned it to anyone recently.
Moore denied the insinuation that he’s a pedophile, pointing to his 33-year-long marriage as evidence and alleging he had never been accused of such things. He eventually ended the interview and left, saying he supported Israel, but not the kind of antics to which he was being subjected.
Now Moore is suing Cohen, CBS, and Showtime for $95 million for defamation, fraud, and intentionally inflicting emotional distress. The lawsuit is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.
Since the show aired, Moore said he had not realized he was going to be appearing on a TV show that was planning to mock and humiliate him and other religious conservatives, including Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney.
The lawsuit alleges Moore suffered extreme emotional distress as a result of Cohen’s prank, which made him out to be a pedophile and a sex offender. Whether that emotional distress is worth $95 million has yet to be determined.
The case is an interesting one. While Moore could certainly make the case that he suffered emotionally as a result of being duped into appearing on Cohen’s show, his allegation of defamation is unlikely to hold much weight in the court. As a politician, Moore is a public figure, which means almost everything said about him is protected by the First Amendment, which was designed to promote free and open speech about our representatives and other public figures in order to encourage the sharing of information so we could have a well-informed public.
It’s also likely that Moore signed a release before appearing on Cohen’s show since several other attempted defamation lawsuits against Cohen have been dismissed when it was revealed that they had signed contracts that released Cohen and his team from any liability.
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