Culture

Bernie Sanders Duped in Sacha Baron Cohen Interview on 'Who Is America?' Premiere

Senator Bernie Sanders was duped into an interview with Sacha Baron Cohen—or, rather, Cohen’s Who Is America? character, Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., Ph.D.—for the premiere episode of his new Showtime series on Sunday.

Unaware that he was being pranked for a television show, Sanders engaged with Ruddick, a right-wing conspiracy theorist, on topics such as universal health care and income inequality. 

Ruddick struggled to understand why Sanders was so concerned that all Americans, not just the most affluent, should have access to health care. He claimed he was “a healthy man” before he was forced to choose a doctor under Obamacare.

He also couldn't wrap his head around the concept of the richest 1 percent of Americans. “If you believe in equality, why not have 100 percent of the people in the one percent?” Ruddick suggested.

When Ruddick shared a nonsensical chart to try to explain how the 99 percent could be moved into the 1 percent, a visibly frustrated Sanders attempted to explain income inequality. “Billy,” Sanders finally said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I really don’t.”

Ruddick is one of four characters Cohen created for the new seven-episode series. In an interview that has yet to air, Cohen tricked former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin into a discussion with Ruddick about military servicemen. An outraged Palin bashed the comedian in a Facebook post on July 10, after she discovered the ruse.

Cohen is no stranger to the controversy his deceptive interviews stir up. Who Is America? is the provocateur's first television series since 2004, when Da Ali G Show went off the air. 

The premiere episode on Sunday featured interviews with several Republicans and gun rights advocates, during which Republican Representatives Joe Wilson and Dana Rohrabacher supported another Cohen character's proposal to arm young children with guns to combat school shootings in the U.S.

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