A judge in New York has rejected an attempt by shock comedian Sacha Baron Cohen to dismiss a lawsuit against him by Judge Roy Moore.
Cohen had asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit by Moore over a TV segment that made fun of the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice.
Cohen tricked Moore into appearing on the Showtime program "Who is America?" After misrepresenting himself and the program, Cohen got Moore to sign an agreement to waive any right to sue.
But Moore argues in a defamation case seeking $95 million that the waiver is invalid because it was obtained fraudulently.
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Cohen argued in his petition to dismiss that his program is "satire" and protected by the First Amendment.
"This lawsuit conflicts directly with the long tradition of First Amendment protection for political parody and satire of public figures — especially where the satirical work 'could not reasonably have been interpreted as stating actual facts about the public figure involved,'" Cohen's lawyers claimed.
During his 2017 run for the U.S. Senate, Moore denied allegations by nine women of sexual misconduct, including two who said they were minors at the time.
Cohen enticed Moore to appear on the show by telling him he was receiving an award for supporting Israel. But in the segment, Cohen pulled out a supposed "pedophile detector" and caused it to beep as it got near Moore.
Moore's lawyer, Larry Klayman, argued to the judge, Andrew Carter Jr., that the consent agreement produced by Cohen was "void and unenforceable for several reasons."
He pointed out there is a longstanding contract principle that "a misrepresentation of material facts may be a basis for the rescission of a contract."
Moore also has claims against Cohen as a matter of law, he contended.
"Whether couched as opinion, humor, or rhetorical hyperbole, which defendants attempt, defamatory statements made by a comedian are actionable where a reasonable listener or viewer could conclude that he or she was asserting or implying false facts about a plaintiff," Klayman wrote.
Whether or not the statements are defamatory is for a jury to decide, he said.
Klayman said Moore offered to settle the case, but the defendants refused, so he is asking the judge to set a schedule for motions and briefings.
The lawyer noted the agreement Cohen made with Moore was with "Yerushalayim TV," which does not exist, so it cannot be enforced.
Esquire reported in August 2018 the show created a "buzz" for Showtime but had mediocre ratings.