Judge allows Roy Moore to proceed with $95m defamation case over Sacha Baron Cohen ‘paedophile’ prank

Former chief justice in the Supreme Court of Alabama called comedian’s interview ‘offensive and defamatory’

James Crump
Wednesday 08 July 2020 17:01 BST
Who is America: Sacha Baron Cohen uses the 'paedophile detector' on Roy Moore

A New York judge has allowed Roy Moore to proceed with his defamation case against comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, over a prank that he claims portrayed him as a paedophile.

Federal judge Andrew Carter denied a motion from Cohen, Showtime and CBS to dismiss the $95m (£75.6m) lawsuit filed by both Mr Moore and his wife, Kayla Moore.

Mr Moore, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, and a failed Senate candidate in the state, featured in a segment of Cohen’s show Who is America? in 2018.

In the segment, Cohen pretended to be an Israeli counterterrorism instructor named Erran Morad, and demonstrated a device that he claimed was able to detect paedophiles, that beeped every time it came close to Mr Moore.

The former chief justice and his wife, who filed the suit in 2018, are suing Cohen for defamation and emotional distress by claiming Mr Moore was “falsely portrayed as a sex offender and paedophile”.

The couple told the show’s production team that they would sue if the segment aired, and called the portion of the interview “offensive and defamatory”, according to the Daily Mail.

Mr Moore’s attorney, Larry Klayman, released a statement after the federal judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit, where he said the couple want Cohen to testify in court.

“We are gratified that the Court is allowing the Moores’ case to go forward and we look forward to putting Cohen and the other defendants under oath,” Mr Klayman said.

“The alleged defamation of chief justice Moore was malicious and despicable and it is time that a jury of the parties’ peers allow justice to be done. Great harm has been caused to my clients, which must be addressed and remedied.”

During Mr Moore’s failed senate campaign in 2017, six woman accused him of pursuing romantic relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.

Two of the women, one of whom was 14, accused Mr Moore of molestation and sexual assault. He has denied the claims.

On behalf of the defendants, attorney Davis Wright Tremaine said that “basic First Amendment protections bar claims arising out of political satire of public figures, like the comedy sketch at issue here depicting famed political satirist Cohen skewering judge Moore concerning issues raised in his Alabama Senate campaign”.

In July 2018, after the segment aired, Mr Moore explained that “in February 2018, I was invited to Washington, DC to receive an award for my strong support of Israel in commemoration of her 70th anniversary as a nation”.

He added: “Because Alabama has always been at the forefront of support of Israel and because I share a strong belief in God as the creator and sustainer of all life, as does Israel, I eventually accepted the invitation.”

He added: “I did not know Sacha Cohen or that a Showtime TV series was being planned to embarrass, humiliate, and mock not only Israel, but also religious conservatives such as Sarah Palin, Joe Walsh, and Dick Cheney.”

Earlier this year, Mr Moore announced his intention to run again for the Republican Senate candidacy in Alabama, but was not selected in the primary.

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