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Still smarting from Sacha Baron Cohen joke, Roy Moore antagonizes appeals court

An attorney for the ex-Alabama judge told the Second Circuit that it is “worse than calling someone a murderer” to brand him as a pedophile.

MANHATTAN (CN) — A federal appeals court judge got a talking-to from Roy Moore's lawyer on Friday after questioning how, given the record of child-abuse allegations against Moore, that he can claim to be a victim of defamation.

“You’re looking at facts outside the case,” attorney Larry Klayman objected in Second Circuit arguments this morning. “You’re actually calling my client a pedophile. That’s what you're doing in effect.” 

With outside facts about his past excluded, Moore is vying to have the appeals court revive his $95 million defamation case against comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen over his unwitting appearance in a 2018 episode of Cohen's limited-run satirical series "Who Is America?"

The segment featuring Moore has him talking to a counterterrorism expert who is actually Cohen in disguise, showing off the supposed newest device in Israeli military technology: a pedophile detector.

Moore walked off the set in a huff as the device beeped persistently whenever waved around him. A year earlier, the ex-Alabama judge saw his Senate run thwarted by sexual misconduct allegations involving underage girls, including one woman who accused Moore of initiating a sexual encounter when she was just 14 years old; Moore was 32.  

“I’m not saying you’re a sex offender at all,” Cohen assures Moore in the clip.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kaJaDx51iw&t=1s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kaJaDx51iw&t=1s

Klayman, an attorney notorious for his vexatious litigation style on behalf of far-right causes, insisted in court Friday that the court must distinguish Cohen's prank from women's allegations against Moore because such allegations stopped short of using the word “pedophile.” 

“There’s nothing more heinous than being accused of being a pedophile,” Klayman argued, adding that “people jump off buildings” over such allegations. “It’s worse than calling someone a murderer."

Klayman, who runs an outfit called Freedom Watch, which he founded, pounced on U.S. Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch when the Obama appointee questioned that theory. “If someone has said, ‘you molested me when I was a child,’” Lynch asked, “what is the distinction?” 

Urging the court to let Moore conduct discovery, Klayman says that he was only given an hour to depose Cohen and that the “Borat” actor was being fed answers during the interview. 

U.S. District Judge John P. Judge Cronan tossed Moore’s lawsuit in July 2021, finding that Moore had waived the very claims he brought against Cohen in an enforceable consent agreement. Specifically, the agreement blocked claims of infliction of emotional distress and fraud, like those brought by Moore and with his wife, Kayla Moore, as well as defamation, brought by Roy Moore alone. 

Two months earlier, Klayman tried to get Cronan to recuse himself, alleging “bias” and “pre-ordained favoritism” of Cohen. The judge declined to do so. 

Moore’s appeal turns on the fact that he crossed out portions of the agreement with a now-dissolved entity called Yerushalayim TV that waived future claims asserting an invasion of privacy including sexually related or offensive questions.  

As Lynch pointed out Friday, however, “no one says they’re not going to discuss sexually related issues. It says at best you may still have a claim for intrusion or invasion of privacy.”

“That’s not one of their causes of action,” U.S. Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler interjected. 

During arguments from Cohen’s attorney, Elizabeth McNamara, Pooler made her opinions known about the content in question. 

“You said comedy,” the Clinton-appointed judge said, addressing the Davis Wright Tremaine lawyer on Friday. “Not very funny. This program was not very funny.” 

McNamara replied that the show was clearly a comedy, even if it was not to Pooler's taste.

“No one could reasonably believe that this wand was depicting actual facts about the plaintiff,” said McNamara. 

Klayman did not respond to a request for comment on the proceedings. Showtime, which was the original broadcaster of Cohen's program, declined to comment.

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