Almost two years ago, to the day, one of Sacha Baron Cohen‘s characters from the satirical show Who Is America? sat down with a very confused Roy Moore. Moore, a Christian Nationalist and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, nearly became a U.S. senator years ago until allegations of child molestation derailed his campaign. He eventually lost to Democrat Doug Jones.
In the segment, you can see that Cohen’s character brags about (fictional) new Israeli technology that protects children by sounding an alarm when it’s in the vicinity of a pedophile. When Cohen uses it on himself, nothing happens, but when the wand approaches Moore, it makes a noise. (Get it?)
Moore eventually walks away. It’s comedy gold.
Shortly after that segment aired, an enraged Moore filed a $95 million defamation lawsuit against Cohen, Showtime (which aired the show), and its parent company.
That lawsuit hasn’t gone away; there was a court hearing on Friday. But it’s clear that Cohen’s legal team has no intention of backing down. They were hoping to have this whole case dismissed on free speech grounds — it’s just satire — but the judge didn’t want to do that. Now they’re trying a different approach.
Essentially, their argument is that they couldn’t have committed defamation if Roy Moore is indeed a pedophile. Therefore, according to Courthouse News, they want to use “truth as an absolute defense against libel claims.”
“If we were to proceed with full discovery … then we would need to be getting discovery on any and all issues and claims here, including substantial truth,” said [Cohen’s lawyer] Elizabeth McNamara, a partner at the firm Davis Wright Tremaine.
“There would need to be full discovery on substantial truth,” McNamara emphasized. “There would need to be full discovery on actual malice.”
What does that mean in English? They want to speak with Moore’s alleged victims, get them on the record, and show that Moore really did molest them. (So much for any statute of limitations.)
If Moore’s team wants to keep fighting, they’re about to learn first-hand how the Streisand effect works. This is bound to backfire. The irony is that it would have been a short-lived gag if Moore just kept his mouth shut after it aired. But he couldn’t do that.
Both sides have until February 2 to complete discovery.
(Thanks to Scott for the link)