In a development that I’m sure had nothing at all to do with the fact that Rudy Guiliani has been releasing alleged evidence of deep corruption in the Biden family, the media yesterday went wild with claims that the former New York mayor was caught on camera in Sacha Baron Cohen’s new “Borat” film “touching his genitals” while in a hotel room with a “15-year-old” girl. As it turns out, according to Mother Jones editor Ben Dreyfuss (far from a right wing publication), this version of events is simply untrue.
The sequel to the first “Borat,” originally released in 2006, shows Guiliani being interviewed by a 24-year-old woman posing as a journalist. She apparently flirts with Guiliani and invites him to her hidden-camera-rigged bedroom for a drink,. He says he did not “touch his genitals” but rather tucked his shirt in after the woman had untucked it while taking his microphone off. Dreyfuss confirms that characterization. Of course, even if Guiliani had been responding in kind to her flirtations, it’s hard to see how that would be any sort of scandal. They’re both adults. Guiliani isn’t currently married. He didn’t know he was being filmed. What exactly is being alleged here? A crime against Christian chastity?
Whatever happened, it sounds like a really funny bit — that is, if you enjoy watching humiliation for humiliation’s sake. And if that is indeed your bag, reviews suggest that the “Borat” sequel, soon available to stream on Amazon, will have plenty more to satisfy you. For example, Cohen hilariously hoaxes a Christian pregnancy center by implying that he raped and impregnated his daughter. At another point, Cohen stays for almost a week in the home of some back country right-wing “conspiracy theorists,” rewarding their hospitality by constantly dreaming up new ways to embarrass them in front of the world. Other pranks for the upcoming film had already been reported, like Cohen’s attempts to trick a crowd of right-wing activists into singing embarrassing song lyrics.
The media has largely hailed this material as a comedic triumph, but it’s doubtful they’d feel that way if Cohen had spent his time coaxing pink-haired feminists and Black Lives Matter activists into saying outrageous things on camera (which would not have been difficult).
The first “Borat” installment was also focused on trying to make middle class Americans look stupid, though his victims mostly came across as polite and wholesome, if a touch naive. But there were moments of cruelty even then, such as the scene where Cohen gets a group of random college guys drunk and coaxes them into saying the sorts of things that they wouldn’t want broadcast to the world through the megaphone of a blockbuster film.
Cohen’s schtick has gotten even darker and more explicitly political in recent years. His 2018 Showtime series “Who Is America?” was panned by outlets like Vox as “cruel and cynical.” The objective in that series was very clearly to destroy the reputations of the unwitting subjects, sometimes dropping the comedy pretenses almost entirely in order to do it.
In one of the ugliest and most mean-spirited scenes ever recorded for a hidden camera show, Cohen goaded a hapless local politician in Georgia into pulling down his pants and yelling racial slurs, among other humiliations. You could, of course, put the blame on the victim for going along with the absurdity in the first place, but what was the point of the absurdity? What did some unknown state representative do to deserve the jeers of millions of spectators?
This type of “comedy” would be easier to stomach — and perhaps might even have some kind of value — if his targets were always his fellow elites. But that is not generally his MO. Cohen is a wealthy British celebrity, often focused on shaming poor and middle class and previously unknown Americans for our entertainment. Sure, occasionally he throws in a prominent or moderately prominent Republican in order to keep up appearances as a bold provocateur, but he lacks the courage to be truly bold and the wit to be truly provocative. He is simply a rich man, pointing and laughing at people he believes to be dumber and inferior to himself, and inviting us to join him. As a matter of basic decency and self-respect, we should decline the invitation.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.