UPDATED, 8:48 AM: A year after a federal judge first found in Sacha Baron Cohen’s favor, the Who Is America? host finally achieved victory in the almost-absurd $95 million defamation battle instigated by Roy Moore.
In a unanimous vote made public Thursday morning, a trio of judges on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the July 2021 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge John P. Cronan.
“We have considered the Plaintiffs’ remaining arguments and conclude that they are without merit,” said the New York State judges. Siding with the acclaimed satirist against failed Alabama Senate candidate Moore, the appeals court declared that Who Is America? was “clearly comedy and that no reasonable viewer would conclude otherwise” (read it here).
“After nearly four years of litigation, it seems Mr. Moore’s frivolous lawsuit is finally over,” Baron Cohen’s lawyer Russell Smith told Deadline today.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, July 13, 2021: It looks like Sacha Baron Cohen is getting the last laugh over failed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. After almost three years of legal dogfighting between the savvy Who Is America? frontman and the scandal-plagued Moore, a federal judge Tuesday has put the kibosh on the latter’s $95 million defamation lawsuit.
“Defendants have moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiffs’ claims are barred by both a waiver clause in the agreement that Judge Moore signed prior to the interview and also by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” said U.S. District Court Judge John P. Cronan in an opinion (read it here) released on Emmy nominations morning.
After having appeared on the third episode of the 2018 Showtime satire, the former Alabama state judicial official proclaimed he had been hoodwinked into going before the cameras, suing for some pretty big bucks.
To be specific, Moore, who faced an avalanche of allegations of sexual misconduct with minors during his unsuccessful 2017 Senate bid, alleged in his initial September 2018 filing that his signature on a release “was obtained through fraud” and therefore “void and inoperative.” Moore also made it pretty obvious that he was not at all amused by the self-described pedophile detecting instrument that a disguised Cohen kept moving his way to louder beeps in the interview.
Citing the same release the Larry Klayman-represented Moore had in fact signed, the Borat star disagreed with the contract interpretation. Following a dust-up over jurisdiction, the matter went from D.C. District Court to New York federal court — and that’s where it ended today, kind of.
“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 in the 26-page decision against Moore and his co-plaintiff spouse. “Although Kayla Moore was not a signatory to that contract, her claims are barred by the First Amendment. Accordingly, Defendants’ motion is granted in its entirety.”
The Moores have already filed paperwork stating that they will appeal, so this may go on – or not
Regardless, noting the larger context of Who Is America? and other segments with former VP Dick Cheney and more, Judge Cronan added that “it is simply inconceivable that the Program’s audience would have found a segment with Judge Moore activating a supposed pedophile-detecting wand to be grounded in any factual basis.” He went on to say: “Given the satirical nature of that segment and the context in which it was presented, no reasonable viewer would have interpreted Cohen’s conduct during the interview as asserting factual statements concerning Judge Moore.”
Or, coming one day after Baron Cohen himself sued a cannabis company for unlawful use of his image, as Borat Sagdiyev would say: “High five!”
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