After footage aired Sunday of Georgia state Rep. Jason Spencer (R) shouting racial slurs and pulling down his pants during a fake terrorism defense class on Sacha Baron Cohen’s Showtimes series, the lawmaker has apologized but refused to resign.
Spencer issued a statement on Monday, apologizing for the “ridiculously ugly episode” and defended himself by claiming he was tricked into participating in the fake class during a particularly vulnerable point in his life. He said in 2017 he and his family had received several death threats in connection with burqa ban legislation he had introduced in the state legislature. After a gunman opened fire at a congressional baseball practice in June 2017, Spencer said his fears were heightened.
“Now, the fears I already had became more intensified as the reality of my family being targeted by a similar, deranged, would-be assassin became even more possible,” he said. “Sacha Baron Cohen and his associates took advantage of my paralyzing fear that my family would be attacked. In posing as an Israeli Agent, he pretended to offer self-defense exercises. As uncomfortable as I was to participate, I agreed to, understanding that these ‘techniques’ were meant to help me and others fend off what I believed was an inevitable attack.”
In the segment, Spencer agrees to pose as a Chinese tourist, in which he blatantly mocks a Chinese person while repeating a host of offensive stereotypes like “sushi” and “red dragon.” He then repeatedly shouts the n-word after he’s instructed that it will make it easier to draw attention to yourself if you’re being attacked. He also pulled down his pants and exposed his bare butt to ward off terrorists.
Multiple lawmakers have called on Spencer, who lost his primary election last month, to resign, but in his statement, he said he would serve out the remaining five months of his term.
In his new series “Who Is America?” Cohen is reportedly able to trick Republican lawmakers into a slew of embarrassing scenarios. Last week, several Republicans agreed to support a program that taught kindergarteners how to use firearms.
Read Spencer’s full statement below:
“In 2017 I received countless death threats in connection with my introduction of legislation involving the wearing of masks. The threats escalated to the point that my wife received threatening phone calls concerning her and my children. I was very afraid for my safety and the safety of my entire family.
“Then, on June 14th, a gunman opened fire at members of Congress on a baseball field. I knew people on that field. Now, the fears I already had became more intensified as the reality of my family being targeted by a similar, deranged, would-be assassin became even more possible. I was in such a poor state of mind that my wife and I also undertook marriage counseling with a licensed therapist during this time.
“Sacha Baron Cohen and his associates took advantage of my paralyzing fear that my family would be attacked. In posing as an Israeli Agent, he pretended to offer self-defense exercises. As uncomfortable as I was to participate, I agreed to, understanding that these ‘techniques’ were meant to help me and others fend off what I believed was an inevitable attack.
“My fears were so heightened at that time, I was not thinking clearly nor could I appreciate what I was agreeing to when I participated in his “class”. I was told I would be filmed as a “demonstration video” to teach others the same skills in Israel. Sacha and his crew further lied to me, stating that I would be able to review and have final approval over any footage used.
“I deeply regret the language I used at his request as well as my participation in the “class’ in general. If I had not been so distracted by my fears, I never would have agreed to participate in the first place.
“I apologize to my family, friends, and the people of my district for this ridiculously ugly episode. Finally, there are calls for me to resign. I recently lost my primary election, so I will not eligible to hold office next term. Therefore, I will finish the remaining five months at my post and vacate my seat.”