NBC Reporter Hails Sacha Baron Cohen as ‘Genius’ ‘Providing a Service’

During a Tuesday panel discussion on NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today about left-wing comedian Sacha Baron Cohen tricking and humiliating Republicans for his new Showtime series, NBC reporter Jacob Soboroff praised the deceptive entertainer as a “genius” who was “exposing the fault lines of our society” and “providing a service.”

Following a full report promoting Cohen’s program, Who is America? – which also aired on the Today show earlier that morning – anchor Megyn Kelly hammered the comedian: “It makes me feel uncomfortable. To me, Sacha Baron Cohen seems like a bully.” She further explained: “If this was done in the schoolyard where you lured somebody in under false pretenses just to humiliate them and then make them a national laughingstock, we would call that person a bully.”

 

 

NBC News reporter Stephanie Gosk immediately attempted to justify it: “Except it’s public officials! And if you’re a public official, you open yourself up to that.” One wonders if Gosk would have the same enlightened attitude if a Democrat like Barack Obama was on the receiving end of the mockery.

Moments later, Gosk’s colleague, Soboroff, joined in expressing support for Cohen: “But he’s exposing really important fault lines in our society.” At that point, Kelly pressed: “It doesn’t strike you at all as mean?” Soboroff doubled down on applauding Cohen:

I think it’s genius. I mean, I actually think Sacha Baron Cohen is a genius and he’s exposing people for the truth of who they really are. Is it deceitful? I mean, sure. But these are who these people are and these are what these people truly believe.

It’s always reassuring when a supposed journalist hails deceitful, uncivil behavior as “genius.” Back in May, Soboroff appeared on Kelly’s show to excuse Samantha Bee hurling a vile insult at Ivanka Trump by claiming “she’s a comedian.”

Gosk eagerly touted another one of Cohen’s targets:

But he also got Dick Cheney to sign a waterboarding kit. I mean, honestly, he handed him an empty milk gallon jug and said, “Hey, can you sign this for me.” And Dick Cheney, the former vice president of this country, didn’t realize that that was a gag.

Kelly shot her down: “I didn’t find that funny at all....I feel like Dick Cheney, even if he’s – even if you didn't like him, he served his country. He made a lot of personal sacrifice in doing that job. And I don’t think he deserved that.”

The host reiterated her criticism of Cohen: “To me, it’s like paid bullying....it’s like the further deterioration of how we treat one another and we just laugh and laugh and laugh while our fellow human beings humiliate themselves and also get humiliated.”

In response, Soboroff heaped even more praise on the comedian:

...look, if laughing is the way we’re all gonna have to, you know, address issues like waterboarding, then so be it. I mean, Sacha Baron Cohen, I think, is providing a service to everybody by making us uncomfortable and making us realize some of the darker parts of our society.

Kelly skeptically replied: “We didn’t know about waterboarding before he got to Dick Cheney?” Soboroff argued: “But look, we might not have talked about it in that way and seen Dick Cheney react in that way ever before.” Kelly dismissed his claim: “Oh, please. Oh, come on....I don’t think it added anything.”

Wrapping up the segment, Kelly lamented providing attention to Cohen: “Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime, neither responded to our request for comment, but they’re getting a lot of free publicity out of all of this. Nonetheless, we thought it was worth talking about.”

Soboroff seemed to be echoing the sentiment of The New York Times, which on Monday also hypocritically praised Cohen for allegedly “revealing a truth” with his hoax interviews.

Here is a transcript of the July 24 panel discussion on Kelly’s morning show:

9:08 AM ET

(...)

MEGYN KELLY: Can I just tell you, the whole thing makes me feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel uncomfortable. To me, Sacha Baron Cohen seems like a bully. If this was done in the schoolyard where you lured somebody in under false pretenses just to humiliate them and then make them a national laughingstock, we would call that person a bully.

STEPHANIE GOSK: Except it’s public officials! And if you’re a public official, you open yourself up to that.

KELLY: You think?

GOSK: This is not just, you know, Joe Blow down the street. This guy was an elected Georgia state official. And I’m sorry, maybe I would be duped –

KELLY: I’m not defending him, I’m just saying I feel uncomfortable about what was done to him.

GOSK: Maybe I would be duped by Sacha Baron Cohen. However, if I was in a room with him and he said to me the only way you’re going to fight off the terrorists is if you drop your pants and run around, Id say, I don’t think so.

JACOB SOBOROFF: Probably not a good idea.

KELLY: You’d be exposed in more ways than one.

SOBOROFF: And you know what, first of all, I want to say, this guy [pointing to an audience member] was loving it, he was cracking up while we were watching the video.

KELLY: He does not want that called out.

SOBOROFF: But he’s exposing really important fault lines in our society.

AMY HOLMES: Exposing, no pun intended.

SOBOROFF: No pun intended, thank you. The guy’s saying n-word unprompted, you know, running around in this particular segment. And Sacha Baron Cohen is, yes, in disguise, but there are cameras all around us. It’s not like I’m sitting with you all not realizing that there are seven or eight cameras around us at all times. It’s like –

KELLY: It doesn’t strike you at all as mean?  

SOBOROFF: I think it’s genius. I mean, I actually think Sacha Baron Cohen is a genius and he’s exposing people for the truth of who they really are. Is it deceitful? I mean, sure. But these are who these people are and these are what these people truly believe. [Laughter and applause]

HOLMES: You know, I’m a patriot, I love my country. But there is no way someone could trick me to pull down my pants.

KELLY: No, me either. [Laughter and applause]

HOLMES: But Megyn, to your point, I did watch Borat in a movie theater here in New York City many years ago. I liked the first half, when he was pulling these pranks on public officials. I didn’t like it when he was doing it to civilians. And I think that there is a differentiation to be made here. Not with the Georgia guy, okay, who literally bum rushed the camera to save America.

GOSK: But he also got Dick Cheney to sign a waterboarding kit. I mean, honestly, he handed him an empty milk gallon jug and said, “Hey, can you sign this for me.” And Dick Cheney, the former vice president of this country, didn’t realize that that was a gag.

KELLY: I don’t think – I didn’t find that funny at all.

GOSK: No, disturbing.

KELLY: I feel like Dick Cheney, even if he’s – even if you didn't like him, he served his country. He made a lot of personal sacrifice in doing that job. And I don’t think he deserved that. To me, it’s like paid bullying, and it’s not my cup of tea. I’m not saying, you know, Showtime needs to pull it, but it just makes me uncomfortable. And to me, it’s like the further deterioration of how we treat one another and we just laugh and laugh and laugh while our fellow human beings humiliate themselves and also get humiliated.

HOLMES: And let’s face it, sometimes he’s basically shooting fish in a barrel.

KELLY: Oh, I know, exactly. How hard is it to humiliate a public official? This guy was like begging for it. Alright, quickly, go ahead.

SOBOROFF: I was just going to say, look, if laughing is the way we’re all gonna have to, you know, address issues like waterboarding, then so be it. I mean, Sacha Baron Cohen, I think, is providing a service to everybody by making us uncomfortable and making us realize some of the darker parts of our society.

KELLY: We didn’t know about waterboarding before he got to Dick Cheney?  

SOBOROFF: But look, we might not have talked about it in that way and seen Dick Cheney react in that way ever before.

KELLY: Oh, please. Oh, come on.  

SOBOROFF: I think so.

KELLY: I don’t think it added anything.             

SOBOROFF: Fair enough.

KELLY: But I’ll give you the last word, okay, which is “fair enough.”

Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime, neither responded to our request for comment, but they’re getting a lot of free publicity out of all of this. Nonetheless, we thought it was worth talking about.

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