It’s impossible to overstate how seriously the establishment media is taking Sacha Baron Cohen and the return of his character Borat, and this was even before they thought he’d managed to disgrace former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
In an obsequious profile of Cohen in The New York Times published Saturday, Maureen Dowd portrayed the man behind Borat, Ali G and Bruno as something akin to a combined reincarnation of Charlie Chaplin and George Orwell, all held together by a glue made out of the milk of truth and human kindness.
As for Borat, Dowd said, the character “has been compared to a raunchy de Tocqueville.” Right. We all remember that part in “Democracy in America” where de Tocqueville described two town councilmen wrestling clothed on the floor of a New England town hall meeting; Cohen’s Borat merely updated it by taking the clothes off the characters and moving it to a hotel room.
Cohen’s de Tocquevilleness, one takes from the article, is that both the real French author and the fictive Kazakh reporter surveyed the state of the American populace. You can see how they can make that conflation by comparing some of their thoughts on the matter.
• Alexis de Toqueville in 1835, talking about a difference between those on the Continent and those in the New World: “The European generally submits to a public officer because he represents a superior force; but to an American he represents a right. In America it may be said that no one renders obedience to man, but to justice and to law.”
• Borat in 2006, during a scene at a gun shop: “I feel like American movie star Dirty Harold. [points gun] Go ahead, make my day, Jew.”
• Borat in 2020: We don’t really have any telling quotes yet — the sequel to “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” releases Friday — but we’re all more evil and bigoted than we were 14 years ago.
“In 2005, you needed a character like Borat who was misogynist, racist, anti-Semitic to get people to reveal their inner prejudices,” Cohen told Dowd. “Now those inner prejudices are overt. Racists are proud of being racists.”
And that — you’ll be shocked to hear — is because of Donald Trump, according to Cohen. When our commander in chief is “an overt racist, an overt fascist … it allows the rest of society to change their dialogue, too,” he said.
There was also Cohen’s assessment of what he said was Trump’s media manipulation: “His brilliance was to commandeer the very term that was being used against him, ‘fake news,’ and use it against every journalist that had journalistic integrity,” he told Dowd.
Yes, well, about that. It turns out Cohen/Borat — currently reaching for some form of “journalistic integrity,” believe it or not — might have been creating some fake news of his own.
The most talked-about scene from the new film involves Trump lawyer Giuliani apparently being seduced by an actress playing Borat’s daughter.
According to a description of the scene from “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (hereafter referred to as “Borat 2” because the long title joke thing regarding Eastern Europeans not getting English was only vaguely funny the first time) provided by The Guardian, “the former New York mayor and current personal attorney to Donald Trump is seen reaching into his trousers and apparently touching his genitals while reclining on a bed in the presence of the actor playing Borat’s daughter, who is posing as a TV journalist.”
“Following an obsequious interview for a fake conservative news program, the pair retreat at her suggestion for a drink to the bedroom of a hotel suite, which is rigged with concealed cameras,” the U.K. outlet reported.
“After she removes his microphone, Giuliani, 76, can be seen lying back on the bed, fiddling with his untucked shirt and reaching into his trousers. They are then interrupted by Borat who runs in and says: ‘She’s 15. She’s too old for you.'”
In its review of the film — which wasn’t that positive — The Guardian noted that the “finale in a hotel suite, when Borat and his teenage daughter Tutar confront a certain very prominent ex-politician who appears on the verge of a serious indiscretion … well, that is an amazing coup.”
However, in its news reporting as opposed to the review, the official news source of 10 out of 10 Jeremy Corbyn supporters managed to note Giuliani’s response to the scene, which was that it was misleading and that his “fiddling with his untucked shirt” involved a microphone they’d used. He said that was decontextualized.
“I had to take off the electronic equipment,” Giuliani said on WABC-AM’s “Curtis & Juliet” show in July after the incident, according to The New York Times. “And when the electronic equipment came off, some of it was in the back and my shirt came a little out, although my clothes were entirely on. I leaned back, and I tucked my shirt in, and at that point, at that point, they have this picture they take which looks doctored, but in any event, I’m tucking my shirt in. I assure you that’s all I was doing.”
And then there was what happened subsequently.
“This guy comes running in, wearing a crazy, what I would say was a pink transgender outfit,” Giuliani told the New York Post that same month. “It was a pink bikini, with lace, underneath a translucent mesh top, it looked absurd. He had the beard, bare legs, and wasn’t what I would call distractingly attractive.
“I only later realized it must have been Sacha Baron Cohen. I thought about all the people he previously fooled and I felt good about myself because he didn’t get me.”
There was also, according to the WABC interview, evidence that this wasn’t a salacious encounter that didn’t make it into the film.
“At one point she explained to me some problems she had. I actually prayed with her,” he said. “And then I had to leave. I had my jacket on. I was fully clothed at all times.”
After reports about the Borat incident hit social media on Wednesday, Giuliani said in a series of tweets that the scene was “a complete fabrication.”
He pointed to the Post’s review of the film, which says of the scene that “after rewatching it 10 times, it looks to me like an exaggeration through editing.”
(2) In fact, the NY Post today reports “it looks to me like an exaggeration through editing.”
As soon as I realized it was a set up I called the police, which has been noted in THR article on July 8th.
— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) October 21, 2020
He also mentioned the timing of the release of the scene came as Giuliani was “preparing much bigger dumps off of the hard drive from hell,” referring to Hunter Biden’s computer, which has spawned damning reports about Biden and his father, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
(4) We are preparing much bigger dumps off of the hard drive from hell, of which Joe Biden will be unable to defend or hide from. I have the receipts.
— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) October 21, 2020
I know your reaction. “Yeah, sure — of course he’d say that.” That was the uncritical reaction of most of those who dealt with it — such as Stephen Colbert, the Brinker Hadley of late-night television.
“I take off a mic every night,” the CBS host said, according to The Daily Beast. “Never once have I reclined on a king-sized bed and then launched a fact-finding mission to my own groin.”
Ho, ho. Except it wasn’t just the New York Post that thought it was “an exaggeration through editing.”
Consider Ben Dreyfuss, editor with the far-left publication Mother Jones.
“I have now seen the scene with Rudy Giuliani and though it is creepy for other reasons it is being described on twitter in a false way,” he tweeted Wednesday.
“He does not have his hand down his pants in a sexual way. He is tucking his shirt back in after she untucks it removing his mic.”
I have now seen the scene with Rudy Giuliani and though it is creepy for other reasons it is being described on twitter in a false way. He does not have his hand down his pants in a sexual way. He is tucking his shirt back in after she untucks it removing his mic.
— Ben Dreyfuss (@bendreyfuss) October 21, 2020
While saying there are “parts of this scene that are creepy,” Dreyfuss noted it was “confusingly edited for comedic purposes which makes sense since this is a comedy film and not a 60 Minutes expose. It would be good to keep that in mind in light of the flattening of media where everything can seem like everything else.”
The scene is confusingly edited for comedic purposes which makes sense since this is a comedy film and not a 60 Minutes expose. It would be good to keep that in mind in light of the flattening of media where everything can seem like everything else.
— Ben Dreyfuss (@bendreyfuss) October 21, 2020
Well, to be fair, what does Ben Dreyfuss know about the editing process on comedies? He’s a Mother Jones editor, after all. It’s not like he has a whole lot of experience with Hollywood films, and … [plays with earpiece] What was that? … I’m being told Ben Dreyfuss is actually the son of Hollywood legend Richard Dreyfuss. All right, but still.
In his interview with The Times, Cohen said of the film that “we wanted it to be a reminder to women of who they’re voting for — or who they’re not voting for. If you’re a woman and you don’t vote against this guy, then know what you’re doing for your gender.”
We assume part of this had to do with the implied misogyny of scenes like this. However, one assumes there’s also his opinion of the president.
“I remember my late father watching Trump on the campaign trail in 2016. I said, ‘What do you think of him?’ He said, ‘Two things. He’s extremely entertaining. Far more entertaining than Hillary [Clinton]. Two, he’s a fascist,'” Cohen said.
“My dad was born in 1932. He’d seen fascists on the streets, [British Union of Fascists leader Oswald] Mosley’s Blackshirts beating up Jews. And he knew what fascism was.”
That’s powerful stuff from that bawdy modern de Tocqueville — a man fighting fake news and fascist enablers such as Rudy Giuliani through selectively edited scenes like these which remind us where our “inner prejudices” have become “overt” under Donald Trump.
Surely you’ll concede his film did nothing to further the impression this was all “fake news.”
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