Appeals Court Sides with Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen Against Roy Moore in $95M Defamation Case

Roy Moore and Sacha Baron Cohen
In these Reuters file photos, Roy Moore, left, and Sacha Baron Cohen are seen in this combination photo – Moore in Midland City, Alabama on Dec. 11, 2017, and Baron Cohen in Hollywood, California, Feb. 28, 2016. (Reuters/Jonathan Bachman and Adrees Latif)

A three-judge panel of  the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed Thursday a lower court ruling that dismissed a long-running defamation suit brought by unsuccessful senatorial candidate and former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore against comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.

The suit was filed in September 2018, after Cohen’s satirical Showtime series, “Who Is America?,” aired a spot featuring Moore. Moore had flown to Washington, D.C. under the false impression that he was receiving an award for his support for Israel. Instead, he was interviewed by Cohen, who was playing an Israeli anti-terrorism expert. Cohen showed him a device that purportedly detected sex offenders, and when he waved the wand in front of Moore, the device started beeping.

Moore, who had been accused of sexual harassment by several women in 2017, sued Cohen, CBS, and Showtime for $95 million for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and fraud. (Moore has repeatedly denied the sexual harassment allegations.)

On July 13, 2021, Judge John Cronan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, dismissed the suit, saying that Cohen’s interview was “clearly a joke and no reasonable viewer would have seen it otherwise.”

The 2nd Circuit supported the lower court’s finding and added: “Baron Cohen may have implied (despite his in-character disclaimers of any belief that Judge Moore was a pedophile) that he believed Judge Moore’s accusers, but he did not imply the existence of any independent factual basis for that belief besides the obviously farcical detecting ‘device,’ which no reasonable person could believe to be an actual, functioning piece of technology.”

Moore and his wife, Molly, were represented by attorney Larry Klayman, the founder of conservative legal organizations Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch.

A Reuters story July 7 quotes Klayman calling the 2nd Circuit’s affirmation a “travesty” and the Freedom Watch @FreedomWatchUSA Twitter account posted the following day: “We will appeal.”