Entertainment

Who Is Jason Spencer, the Unfortunate Star of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Latest Show?

Posted July 22, 2018 10:42 p.m. EDT

Jason Spencer, a Republican state representative in Georgia, found himself on the wrong end of a Sacha Baron Cohen prank that aired Sunday night on Showtime. It was the second episode of “Who Is America?” — Cohen’s latest foray into duping unsuspecting participants into saying embarrassing things.

But Spencer’s segment was one of the most humiliating yet to air on the show.

Cohen was playing a character named Erran Morad, an Israeli anti-terrorism expert who, in the first episode, fooled several current and former lawmakers and gun-rights advocates into expressing support for arming young children. In Sunday night’s episode, the Morad character persuaded Spencer to take part in a supposed anti-terrorism training video.

For Spencer, it went downhill from there. In a series of wince-inducing scenes, Cohen got him to yell a racial epithet and drop his pants on camera by telling him that those tactics would scare terrorists away.

Spencer is not quite as prominent as the other lawmakers that Cohen has fooled, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. But you might have heard his name before.

Spencer, a 43-year-old physician assistant, was elected to the Georgia House in 2010 from Woodbine, near the southeastern tip of Georgia. This is his fourth term, and his last, for now at least. In May, he lost his primary election to a political newcomer, Steven Sainz.

He had a reputation of being combative and a knack for attracting negative attention, which may have been what brought him to the attention of Cohen.

In 2016, shortly after President Donald Trump won the election, Spencer filed and then withdrew — after an outcry — a bill that critics said would have effectively banned Muslims from wearing veils in public.

Last summer, Spencer got into a Facebook exchange with a former Georgia lawmaker, an African-American attorney named LaDawn Jones, who supported the removal of Confederate statues. In a comment that had threatening racial overtones, Spencer told Jones: “Looks like you are afflicted with the same poison you claim to fight against. I can guarantee you won’t be met with torches but something a lot more definitive. People in South Georgia are people of action, not drama.” He added that people who want the statues removed “will go missing in the Okefenokee,” referring to a swamp in Georgia.

Spencer also sparred with the Catholic Church this year, referring to it as a “pro-child predator special interest group” and the “child sexual predator lobby.” This was in the midst of a heated debate over Georgia’s Hidden Predator Act, which Spencer wanted to toughen by giving victims of child sexual abuse more power to sue perpetrators and institutions that harbor them.

The legislation passed unanimously in the House, but in the Senate, the language was whittled down and the legislative session ended without the bill passing.

In a statement last week, Spencer said he had received death threats after proposing the bill that would have banned facial coverings, and that Cohen had “took advantage of my fears that I would be attacked by someone inspired by the vile rhetoric used against me.”

He called the stunt “deceptive and fraudulent behavior” and “exactly why President Donald Trump was elected.”

Spencer also threatened legal action. Showtime did not respond to a request for comment on his statement.