Comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Who is America?” television show sparked multiple controversies earlier this year due to its unfettered interviews with politicians, celebrities and everyday people. But arguably the most disturbing segment of the show never saw the light of the day.
According to the actor, while doing an interview as Italian playboy “Gio,” Cohen inadvertently touched upon an alleged Las Vegas-area pedophile ring.
“We were shooting some of this at the time of Harvey Weinstein. We wanted to investigate how does someone like Harvey Weinstein gets away with doing what … get away with criminality, essentially,” Cohen said in an interview with Deadline.
“We decided that Gio would interview a concierge. ... During the interview, I revealed that basically Gio has molested an 8-year-old boy. Now, mind you, this is extreme comedy and we thought that the guy would leave the room. Instead, this concierge stays in the room and I go, listen, you’ve got to help me get rid of the problem. And this guy starts advising Gio how to get rid of this issue. We even at one point talk about murdering the boy, and the concierge is just saying, ‘well, listen, I’m really sorry. In this country, we can’t just drown the boy. This is America we don’t do that.’ And then, in the end, he puts me in touch with a lawyer who can silence the boy,” Baron Cohen explained.
“It became really dark stuff. And then at the end of the interview I say, listen, I want to go out and celebrate now. Can you get me a date for tonight? He says, ‘what do you mean, a date?’ I go, you know, like a young man. He says, ‘well, what kind of age?’ I say, lower than Bar Mitzvah but older than 8. And he says, ‘yeah, I can put you in touch with somebody who can get you some boys like that.’”
Baron Cohen told Deadline that he decided against airing the segment and instead reported the person to law enforcement.
“We immediately turned over the footage to the FBI because we thought, perhaps there’s a pedophile ring in Las Vegas that’s operating for these very wealthy men,” the comedian explained. “And this concierge had said that he’d worked for politicians and various billionaires. But in the end the FBI decided not to pursue it.”
“It was too dark and wrong,” he continued. “In a journalistic way it was fascinating, but it was so extreme and so dark that it was too unsettling for the audience.”
Despite the notoriety the show earned in its seven-episode run – and praise and support from Showtime, which aired the program – there are no plans to bring the series back for another season.
"It's like 'The Ali G Show' in England — I did one season. And the idea is not to make it a 'Seinfeld' or an 'SNL,'" Baron Cohen recently said. "It is grueling. … I'm too lazy to do this."