In an opinion today, Judge Cronan granted summary judgment to Sacha Baron Cohen (and other defendants) in a case over his interview of Roy Moore, the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, that was broadcast as part of the television show “Who is America?“.
Judge Cronan ruled that the claims against Cohen and others were barred by a waiver that Moore had signed, and that, in addition, claims by Moore’s wife — for international infliction of emotional distress — were barred by the First Amendment.
For purposes of the First Amendment analysis, Judge Cronan found that the interview, in which Cohen played the role of an Israeli “Anti-Terrorism Expert” named “Gen. Erran Morad,” was obvious satire, and was not making factual assertions about Moore:
In light of the context of Judge Moore’s interview, the segment was clearly a joke and no reasonable viewer would have seen it otherwise. The segment began with an absurd joke (i.e., “Gen. Erran Morad” boasting about once killing a suicide bomber with an iPad 4, but luckily he had purchased AppleCare), followed soon by footage of numerous news reporters commenting on the accusations brought against Judge Moore.
At this point, it should have been abundantly clear to any reasonable viewer that Defendants were using humor to comment on those accusations, rather than making independent factual assertions or even remarking on the truth or accuracy of the allegations.
The actual interview of Judge Moore then became even more absurd. No reasonable viewer would have interpreted Cohen, in his over-the-top “Erran Morad” character, waving a wand that supposedly detects enzymes emitted by pedophiles in the vicinity of Judge Moore as stating facts about Judge Moore. Nor would a viewer have reasonably believed that this gadget—which “Erran Morad” contended also was able to detect hidden tunnels used by terrorists—doubled as a device that also could detect enzymes secreted by pedophiles.