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In Sacha Baron Cohen's provocative new comedy show, U.S. lawmakers were pranked into backing a fictitious program to teach kindergartners how to use guns to defend themselves in school shootings.
The British comedian adopted different personas as he satirized the era of President Donald Trump for a seven-episode Showtime series that launched Sunday.
In the first episode of "Who is America?", Baron Cohen posed as an Israeli anti-terror expert who gets two U.S. congressmen to voice support for a fake "Kinderguardians" scheme for children as young as three.
It included a spoof instructional video featuring "gunimals" — weapons adorned with soft toys — that would purportedly help kids confront the school shootings that have plagued the United States for the past decade.
Republican congressmen Dana Rohrabacher of California and Joe Wilson of South Carolina, along with former Senate Republican leader Trent Lott, who is now a lobbyist at a Washington law firm, are shown enthusiastically backing the idea, alongside gun rights advocates and a former congressman-turned-talk radio host, Joe Walsh.
Showtime and Sacha Baron Cohen both declined to comment on the series. Those shown endorsing the fake scheme, including the politicians, had not seen the finished show ahead of its Sunday premiere. Rohrabacher, Wilson and Lott did not immediately reply to requests for comment late Saturday.
Walsh told CNN that he was tricked into reading words off a teleprompter but that he is a fan of Baron Cohen. "He's a funny guy because he gets people to say stupid things."
The show marks Baron Cohen's first television project in a decade after he launched his comedy career with the character of white British rapper Ali G., whose interviewees included Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich. His 2006 faux documentary film "Borat" ridiculed Kazakhstan and Middle Americans.
In "Who is America?", Baron Cohen also takes aim at the media and political correctness, with the comedian posing as a pony-tailed liberal radio reporter on a post-2016 election cycling tour, and a man in a disability scooter who purports to investigate fake news.
Among others to be tricked for the new series is former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who said in a Facebook post last week that she and her daughter were “duped" into an interview. She referred to Baron Cohen's humor as “evil, exploitive” and “sick.”