Judge tosses Roy Moore’s lawsuit over Baron Cohen interview

Local News

This combination of photos shows actor-comedian Sacha Baron Cohen at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. on March 4, 2018, left, and former Alabama Chief Justice and then U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore at a news conference in Birmingham, Ala., on Nov. 16, 2017. Cohen is asking a federal judge to dismiss Roy Moore’s defamation lawsuit over a 2018 television segment of “Who is America?” Lawyers for Cohen, Showtime Networks and CBS wrote last week in a court filing that Moore signed an agreement waiving all legal claims before appearing on the segment. They also said the segment was satire and is protected under the First Amendment. (AP Photo)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore’s $95 million lawsuit targeting comedian Sacha Baron Cohen filed after Moore complained he was tricked into an interview that lampooned sexual misconduct accusations against him.

Judge John Cronan wrote that Moore signed a clear disclosure agreement that prohibited any legal claims over the appearance. He added that the absurd segment — in which the comic demonstrated a so-called pedophile detector that beeped when it got near Moore — was “clearly a joke” and no viewer would think the comedian was making factual allegations against Moore.

“The court agrees that Judge Moore’s claims are barred by the unambiguous contractual language, which precludes the very causes of action he now brings,” Cronan wrote.

The lawsuit centered on Moore’s unwitting appearance on the comic’s “Who is America?” show. The segment ran after Moore faced misconduct accusations that he had pursued sexual and romantic relationships with teens when he was a man in his 30s. He has denied the allegations.

Moore, a Republican sometimes known as the Ten Commandments judge known for hardline stances opposing same-sex marriage and supporting the public display of Ten Commandments, faced the accusations during his 2017 race for U.S. Senate. The accusations contributed to his loss to Democrat Doug Jones, the first Democrat to represent Alabama in the Senate in a quarter-century.

Moore had been told he was receiving an award for supporting Israel. But in the segment, Baron Cohen appeared as a faux counterterrorism instructor “Col. Erran Morad,” discussing bogus military technology, including a supposed pedophile detector. In the segment, the device beeped repeatedly as it got near Moore, who sat stone-faced.

The judge noted the absurdity of the segment in dismissing Moore’s lawsuit, which sought $95 million in damages.

“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 judge wrote.

Court records indicate Moore and his wife, who also was a plaintiff in the suit, are appealing.

“Of course we will appeal — this Court used words like “tricked and Joke” in describing Cohens behavior but will still do nothing to rein in his fraudulent misconduct,” Moore said in a statement texted to The Associated Press.

Baron Cohen has for years lured unwitting politicians into awkward interviews. He has faced past lawsuits over similar pranks, but those were tossed out because the individuals had signed releases.

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