A federal court on Tuesday threw out the defamation lawsuit filed by Roy Moore, Alabama’s former chief justice, against comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.
Moore, who served twice in his role on the Alabama Supreme Court and was twice removed from the position, sued Baron Cohen after Moore was interviewed under the pretense that he would receive an award for his support of Israel. Baron Cohen pretended to be an Israeli anti-terrorism expert and claimed he had technology that would show whether Moore was a pedophile — a reference to sexual misconduct allegations against Moore — for the series “Who Is America?”
Moore alleged that Baron Cohen defamed him. He and his wife, Kayla Moore, also alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the case on Tuesday after agreeing with the defendants that because Moore had signed a waiver before the interview, and because of First Amendment protection, Moore’s claims were barred. Judge John P. Cronan, an appointee of President Donald Trump, dismissed the claims by both Moore and his wife.
Larry Klayman, Moore’s attorney, filed notice that his client intended to appeal Tuesday’s decision.
Russell Smith of SmithDehn LLP, counsel for Baron Cohen, said the decision made the absurdity of the case clear when it noted that no reasonable viewer could have seen the “Who Is America?” interview as anything other than a joke. Smith said he was “very happy that justice has been done” in response to the dismissal of the Moores’ case.
Baron Cohen has built a comedic reputation based on satirical characters, including Borat Sagdiyev and Ali G, who elicit candid and often cringeworthy responses from people who don’t suspect the ploy.
The sexual misconduct allegations against Moore cropped up in 2017 during his U.S. Senate run, with accusations that he had pursued teenagers.
In 2018, Baron Cohen interviewed Moore for “Who Is America?”, a Showtime satire series that was new at the time. Wearing a disguise, Baron Cohen said he had a device that identified pedophiles, which then beeped when he held it next to Moore. The Republican from Alabama then cut off the interview, saying “I support Israel. I don’t support this kind of stuff.”
Moore sued Baron Cohen, along with Showtime and CBS, in 2018, seeking $95 million in damages. Klayman did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday’s decision.
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