"There has been widespread misinformation over the past week about the character of Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., Ph.D., performed by Sacha Baron Cohen on the Showtime comedy series 'Who Is America?' Baron Cohen did not present himself as a disabled veteran, and viewers nationwide who watched the premiere on Sunday can now attest to that," the network said in a statement released Monday, the day after the premiere of the new comedy series from the "Borat" creator.
"In Sunday's episode, during an interview with Senator Bernie Sanders, Baron Cohen in character as Dr. Ruddick was asked by the Senator if he is disabled, and he stated that he is not and uses a mobility scooter to conserve his energy," he said. "In addition, Baron Cohen never presented himself as a veteran of the U.S. military to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin during the booking process or during the filming of her interview, and contrary to her claims he did not appear in a wheelchair. In both the interview with Governor Palin and the interview with Senator Sanders, he did not wear military apparel of any kind."
TooFab watched the premiere and we can confirm Cohen's character does not claim to be a veteran. Instead, he's a parody of an alt-right conspiracy theorist and extreme MAGA Trump supporter who uses a motorized scooter but refuses to identify as disabled.
When Sanders tried to reason with Ruddick about the benefits of socialized healthcare by pointing out he appeared disabled and would benefit from what Sanders was proposing, Ruddick fired back he was completely healthy until the Affordable Care Act was passed during President Barack Obama's administration.
"Obamacare came along and forced me to see a doctor. Suddenly, I had three diseases," Ruddick told Bernie, who rolled with the bizarre conversation as the man claimed to have both types of diabetes and obese legs.
The former Democratic presidential candidate even rolled with it when Ruddick brought out a ridiculous chart to explain his plan of simply moving the 99 percent into the 1 percent to solve this economic divide. But the segment didn't last much longer, we assume because Sanders grew tired of the charade, but maybe producers are saving the rest of the footage for future episodes.
We'll see as we eagerly keep an eye out for Palin's interview, too. The former Republican vice presidential candidate initially complained in an open letter to "evil" Cohen that the comedian "heavily disguised himself as a disabled US Veteran, fake wheelchair and all."
She doubled down on the claim in an interview on "Good Morning America" last week when she railed on the show for disrespecting "middle-class Americans" and "the disabled," before defending giving the show a lot of free publicity.
"Aren't you playing into what they want?" Robin Roberts asked. "Because many people didn't even realize this show was happening and now this is bringing more attention to it. Are you concerned about that?"
"That's a good point," Palin responded. "But see CBS and Showtime, they're going to be pimping this thing hard, so they're going to hear about it, anyway."
However, Palin and curious news media have actually done most of the hyping for the show which Showtime only started promoting about a week before premiere. She even described what went down in the interview she walked out on.
"He started showing me these graphs and statistics that had typos in them and didn't quite look right. Part of this propaganda, this data he was showing me had something to do with sex changes and transgenderism, and then he brought up Chelsea Clinton and said that she was a recipient of a government-funded sex change," Palin explained. "It just got worse and worse and worse as the minutes went on in this bizarre, really embarrassing, humiliating interview. It mocked middle class Americans. It mocked our values, it mocked the disabled. It just got worse and worse, and it was occurring to me, whatever this show is, whatever this interview really is, is all about humiliation and devaluing middle class Americans, whom I represent."
"Who Is America?" airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.