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Sacha Baron Cohen is a skillful prankster. In the movies and on television he pokes fun at hypocrisy, racism, and just plain stupidity.
We know him from his roles as Borat, Bruno, or Ali G.
He has a new program on Showtime called “Who is America?” The most recent episode (Season One, Episode Two) caused quite a ruckus in Kingman some 100 miles southeast of Las Vegas.
In heavy disguise, Cohen came to town with news that he wanted to bring more than $300-million in development, a huge boost for the local economy.
The development: the largest mosque in America.
Arizona residents who attended the fake town hall meeting were not pleased and it went downhill from there.
We called the mayor of Kingman to get her reaction.
“Kingman is a proud and diverse community,” Mayor Monica Gates said, “We’re a welcoming community.”
She said she's not even sure if the segment was actually filmed in Kingman and she said there is no way of knowing whether the people featured were from the city. Gates said she didn't recognize anyone featured in the segment.
Gates admits that "some level of intolerance" is present in every community, but she doesn't believe that is what the segment was about.
“This program seemed to be more about inciting bigotry than exposing bigotry,” she said.
The mayor said Kingman has a diverse population with people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds living there. Plus, she noted millions of people from around the globe come to Kingman each year as tourists for events and to drive the iconic Route 66.
“We find it very, very frustrating and disheartening that this so-called comedian would try to create humor at the expense of our community,” she said.
KNPR News contacted Showtime about the show but a spokesperson said Baron Cohen was not doing interviews during the show's run.
Gates said the idea that the segment was a joke doesn't make it any easier.
“There is no excuse for someone to come in and try to incite bigotry in our community,” she said.
Gates said the show has sped up efforts that were already underway in the city to embrace diversity and better showcase how welcoming and warm of a place it is.
And for the record, Gates said there is already a lovely mosque in the center of Kingman.
Monica Gates, mayor of Kingman, AZ
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