Sacha Baron Cohen's controversies: From 'Borat' lawsuits to box office flops

Sacha Baron Cohen made headlines again for his controversial Showtime series “Who Is America?”

The new show follows the British comedian as he speaks to American politicians while donning a disguise. In the first episode, for example, Cohen dresses as an Israeli character who tries to get gun-rights advocates to endorse his notion of arming preschoolers.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show “Who Is America” follows the comedian as he wears disguises and speaks to U.S. lawmakers.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show “Who Is America” follows the comedian as he wears disguises and speaks to U.S. lawmakers. (AP)

Despite the chatter surrounding the show after Cohen duped politicians like Sarah Palin and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the ratings fell flat. Deadline reported 327,000 tuned in to watch the premiere. But the cable network said the show garnered more than a million viewers when streaming, on demand and online views were included.

Either way, Cohen has seen his fair share of flops since his 2006 mega-hit “Borat.”

Here are some of Cohen's memorable missteps:

"Borat" lawsuit

"Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" was released in 2006.

"Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" was released in 2006. (20th Century Fox)

Two South Carolina college fraternity brothers sued Cohen after they were shown drinking and making racist remarks in the 2006 film “Borat.” The students claimed the filmmakers “duped them into appearing in ‘Borat’ by getting them drunk and falsely promising the film would never be shown in the U.S.,” Reuters reported.

The students claimed their reputations were tarnished following the film’s release, but lost their bid for a court order to cut their scene from the movie.

Arab nations ban “Borat” for “vile, gross and extremely ridiculous” content

Cohen’s massive hit “Borat” was banned from every Arab country minus Lebanon, The Guardian reported. An official from Dubai’s Ministry of Information called the film “vile, gross and extremely ridiculous.” Later on, Kazakhstan’s foreign minister invited Cohen to the country for a visit following the film’s success.

Cohen’s joke about Jessica Simpson falls flat

The comedian took the stage at the MTV Movie Awards in 2006 and made a joke about singer Jessica Simpson’s “camel toe.” When GQ asked Cohen, who was interviewed as his character “Borat,” about his remark at the award show he said: “I do not know why Mrs. Simpson’s was upset by my speeches. I was extreme complimentary about her movie ‘The Lords [Dukes] of Hazzard’ and commented that in it she had a beautiful mouth, which I could see through her denim shorts.” GQ pointed out that his comments made some viewers “discomfited.” MTV reportedly cut the footage when the network reaired the award show.

"Bruno" prompts more legal action

Sacha Baron Cohen as "Borat" [left] and "Brüno" [right].

Sacha Baron Cohen as "Borat" [left] and "Brüno" [right].

Ayman Abu Aita, a Palestinian man, sued Cohen after he was described in the comedian’s hit film as a “terrorist group leader.” Cohen, who played the titular fashion journalist in "Bruno," interviewed Aita, who said he believed he would be asked about peace activism. Aita said he received death threats following the film’s release. The suit was settled in 2012 on undisclosed terms, CBC News reported.

A California woman also sued Cohen after she claimed she was left in a wheelchair following an altercation during the filming of “Brüno.” The woman lost the case and was ordered to pay NBC Universal for “bringing a nuisance lawsuit,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"The Brothers Grimsby" flops

“The Brothers Grimsby” was released in 2016 and costarred "Pitch Perfect" actress Rebel Wilson. Cohen played a soccer hooligan who finds out his brother is an assassin. The pair eventually team up to save the world, according to IMDB. The website stated the movie’s budget was $35 million. Meanwhile, it made just $3 million in its opening weekend. Forbes dubbed it the year’s “biggest box office turkey.”

Gun store owner calls Cohen out

Despite Cohen being in disguise for most of his stunts, he was recognized by a gun store owner in February 2017. Norris Sweidan, the owner of Warrior Ones Guns & Ammo in Riverside, Calif., told FOX 11 he agreed to participate in a documentary about a Hungarian immigrant wanting to buy a gun in the United States. However, Sweidan realized quickly he was being duped. He said he could tell Cohen, in full disguise, did not look like a Hungarian immigrant.

“I’m looking at the producer and I’m just like, ‘Am I being fooled right here?’” he said. “And I just kept looking at the guy and I was like, you’re ‘Borat,’” he said, recognizing Cohen from his 2006 film.

Sweidan said Cohen left the store as soon as his disguise was ruined. The shop owner said he kicked out the producers after they couldn’t answer some of his questions. The incident was likely meant to be a segment for his Showtime series “Who Is America?”

Fox News' Tyler McCarthy contributed to this report.