Because the run-up to this year's presidential election apparently hasn't been insane enough, a fresh controversy has now emerged involving Rudy Giuliani and Sacha Baron Cohen's fictional Kazakh TV reporter Borat. If you had that on your 2020 bingo card, high-five!
In the new sequel to the 2006 hit comedy "Borat," the former New York mayor and personal attorney for President Trump makes an embarrassing appearance that is already setting tongues wagging, eyeballs rolling and stomachs turning on social media, despite almost no one having seen the movie.
Giuliani responded Wednesday on Twitter, calling the scene "a complete fabrication" and insisting that he was never inappropriate. He also accused Baron Cohen of being "a stone-cold liar" if he implies otherwise.
The film will be released Friday on Amazon Prime Video, tossing yet more accelerant onto the country's already raging political conflagration less than two weeks before election day.
Warning: Spoilers about "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" ahead.
Late in the film, Borat's teenage daughter Tutar (played by Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova) conducts an interview in a hotel suite with the 76-year-old Giuliani under the guise of a made-up conservative outlet called the Patriots Report.
Sipping from what appears to be a glass of scotch, Giuliani defends Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that China "manufactured the virus and let it out" but that the Trump administration's response saved a million lives. The two joke flirtatiously about eating a bat together. Giuliani coughs.
Then things take an even more cringe-inducing turn.
The interview is interrupted by Borat, posing as a sound engineer. He advises Giuliani, "If I were you, I would stick to marrying your cousins" — a reference to the fact that Giuliani's first wife, Regina Peruggi, whom he married in 1968, was his second cousin.
Tutar then concludes the interview and asks Giuliani, "Should we have a drink in the bedroom?" There, in front of hidden cameras, Giuliani sits on the bed and tells Tutar she can give him her phone number and her address. After he helps her remove her microphone, Tutar bends over and removes his microphone, tugging on his shirt while he pats her on the rear end. Giuliani then lies back on the bed and reaches into his pants.
At that moment, Borat bursts into the room dressed only in women's undergarments and protests, "She's 15. She's too old for you ... She's my daughter. Please, take me instead." (There is no indication in the film that Giuliani was ever told that his interlocutor was supposedly underage; in reality, according to her IMDB profile, Bakalova is 24.) A shocked Giuliani calls in his security detail, saying he has no idea what's going on, and Borat and Tutar are shown fleeing the hotel.
In July, the New York Post reported that Giuliani subsequently called New York police to report the incident, which took place at the upscale Mark Hotel. Giuliani told the Post that a man in what he described as "a pink transgender outfit" had rushed in during what he had thought was meant to be a serious interview.
"I thought this must be a scam or a shakedown, so I reported it to the police. He then ran away," said Giuliani, adding that he had asked that his payment for the interview be donated to a foundation named for a firefighter who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11.
It was only later that Giuliani apparently realized he had been set up as part of an elaborate prank by Baron Cohen. “I thought about all the people he previously fooled and I felt good about myself because he didn’t get me," Giuliani told the Post.
At the time, he seemed to harbor no ill will toward Baron Cohen. “I am a fan of some of his movies, ‘Borat’ in particular, because I’ve been to Kazakhstan," Giuliani said, lapsing into Borat's Kazakh accent. " 'She is my sister. She is No. 4 prostitute in all of Kazakhstan.' That was pretty funny.”
Now that details of the scene are emerging, it is unclear whether his feelings will change. On Tuesday, the British newspaper the Guardian offered a breakdown of the scene, immediately setting Twitter ablaze.
The Times reached out to Giuliani, who is already enmeshed in a firestorm over what he has claimed is Hunter Biden's laptop, to get his reaction the scene, but he did not respond.
Instead, the Trump adviser addressed the hubbub in a series of tweets Wednesday, alleging that he was simply tucking his shirt in after taking off recording equipment during the scene. (He also reiterated that in a radio interview Wednesday, dismissing the new "Borat" film as "a hit job.") He then proceeded to attack Trump's political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.
"This is an effort to blunt my relentless exposure of the criminality and depravity of Joe Biden and his entire family," Giulani tweeted, adding, "We are preparing much bigger dumps off of the hard drive from hell, of which Joe Biden will be unable to defend or hide from. I have the receipts."
(2) In fact, the NY Post today reports "it looks to me like an exaggeration through editing."
As soon as I realized it was a set up I called the police, which has been noted in THR article on July 8th.
— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) October 21, 2020
(4) We are preparing much bigger dumps off of the hard drive from hell, of which Joe Biden will be unable to defend or hide from. I have the receipts.
— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) October 21, 2020
Arriving less than two weeks before the presidential election, "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm," like much of Baron Cohen's previous work, takes aim at a number of right-wing political targets.
In one sequence, Borat, disguised as Donald Trump, infiltrates the Conservative Political Action Committee conference while Mike Pence is delivering a speech and attempts to give his daughter to the vice president as a gift. In another, he poses as a country singer and takes the stage in front of a crowd of Trump supporters in Olympia, Wash., and attempts to get them singing along with a song that includes lyrics about injecting former President Obama with the "Wuhan flu."
Asked by The Times to comment on the Giuliani scene, Baron Cohen and the film's director, Jason Woliner, have not responded. But as Times critic Justin Chang predicts in his review, "Much more from their shocking, climactic, what-the-hell-am-I-seeing encounter will become public knowledge as this movie makes its way through the culture, inspiring a fresh round of heated arguments and probably a few indignant lawsuits."
Times staff writer Nardine Saad contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.