Jason Spencer Resigned After His Sacha Baron Cohen Video Scandal
After shouting the n-word repeatedly on Sacha Baron Cohen's show Who is America?, Georgia state lawmaker Jason Spencer is resigning. In a letter to the legislature's House Speaker, he explained that he will depart on July 31, five months before he was set to leave office after losing the Republican primary this spring. Spencer's offensive performance on Cohen's show had prompted resignation calls even from members of his own party.
Cohen debuted "Who Is America?," a satire in which he pranks politicians, earlier this month. On Sunday night's episode, he dressed up as the character Colonel Erran Morad, an Israeli anti-terrorism expert who pretended to recruit Spencer for participation in a training video. Cohen told Spencer to demonstrate a series of activities that could be used in anti-terrorism operations.
Cohen begins by getting Spencer to adopt a Chinese accent, pretend to be a tourist, and stick a selfie stick up the skirt of a woman wearing a burqa because, as Cohen told him, "I do not know whether this is a woman or a man wearing an explosive."
In the most intensely condemned part of the video, Cohen got Spencer to shout the n-word over and over. "Because of who you are, you could be the victim of kidnapping by ISIS. You have two seconds to attract attention," Cohen said, and prompted: "In America, there is one forbidden word. It is the n-word." He then pretended to be kidnapping Spencer while the legislator yelled the slur.
In the last stunt of the video, Cohen convinced Spencer to drop his pants and run at him because "ISIS are scared of being seen as homo" and "If your buttock touch them, it means that they have become a homosexual."
The publication of the video was met with a strong wave of backlash toward Spencer. House Speaker David Ralston said in a statement that the lawmaker had "disgraced himself and should resign immediately," adding that "Georgia is better than this."
The state's Republican governor also issued a denouncement, writing, "There is no excuse for this type of behavior, ever, and I am saddened and disgusted by it." Republican governor candidate Brian Kemp said that "Rep. Spencer's words and behavior are hurtful, insensitive and completely unacceptable." The state's Council on American-Islamic Relations also called on Spencer to quit.
Spencer apologized for his actions but originally said that he would not resign. He made excuses for his behavior, saying that Cohen had "exploited my state of mind" and his fear of facing an attack; he received death threats in 2016 after introducing legislation that would have prevented women from wearing niqabs, burqas, and other veils over their faces in public. "If I had not been so distracted by my fears, I never would have agreed to participate in the first place," he told The Washington Post.
This isn't the first incident that's brought on calls for Spencer to leave office. The same thing happened last year when he told former lawmaker LaDawn Jones that she should stop advocating for taking down Confederate statues, or else she wouldn't be "met with torches but something a lot more definitive."
Now he's finally leaving. Spencer will step down in one week, on July 31.