Sacha Baron Cohen has become quite familiar with the whole legal process lately, thanks to the onslaught of Borat lawsuits. Well, now he’s got another one to add to the “pending litigation” file. Only this time he’s being sued over his Ali G character, and the details of this are rather odd for several reasons.
Ali G is, like Borat, one of the fictional characters Cohen uses to have some fun at others’ expense. Ali G purports to be a British gangster who happens to conduct interviews and has some of the worst grammar you’ve ever heard. Anyway, in August 2004, HBO aired an episode of “Da Ali G Show” where Ali G was interviewing Gore Vidal. In talking about the Constitution, Ali G said the following:
Aint it better sometimes, to get rid of the whole thing rather than amend it (the constitution) cos like me used to go out with this bitch called Heddi Cundle and she used to always trying amend herself. Y’know, ger her hair done in highlights, get like tattoo done on her batty crease, y’know have the whole thing shaved - very nice but it didn’t make any more difference. She was still a minger and so, y’know me had enough and once me got her pregnant me said alright, laters, that is it. Ain’t it the same with the constitution?
Wanna’ guess who’s suing Cohen? Yup, Heddi Cundle. While she lives out in Cali now, she grew up in the UK. And in the summer of 1987 she took a youth group to Israel, and she claims that Cohen was also on the trip. While they spoke, she says “Plaintiff and Baron Cohen never engaged in any sexual activity.” After the trip, Cundle claims that their friendship went their separate ways, and while she watched him becoming increasingly popular on TV, there was never any further contact between them.
Then, after the August ‘04 episode aired, Cundle claims to have received calls from friends, telling her that she was name-checked on the show. She became upset because she says none of these statements are true, particularly the whole getting-knocked-up part. She had her lawyers contact HBO to pull the show, but they did not. So now she’s suing Cohen, HBO and Da Ali G Show productions for a whole gaggle of causes of action: libel, slander, invasion of privacy, fraud, negligent misrepresentation and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
As I mentioned at the top, there are a couple of really bizarre elements to this.
First, she filed the lawsuit as a “Jane Doe.” You’ll recall last week I mentioned Fuzzy Zoeller having filed a lawsuit as “John Doe” to protect his identity, which was then quickly figured out anyway. Well this is even more ridiculous because at least he keep his name out of the complaint. But here, “Jane Doe” included the alleged libelous statement in her complaint, and that statement includes her name! So we know that “Jane Doe” i Heddi Cundle, so what could possibly be the point of filing as a “Jane Doe?”
Another bizarre thing here is her allegations against HBO. So in November of 2004, she and HBO actually entered into a settlement agreement, and HBO agreed to make her name inaudible. However, she claims that the show aired unedited in December 2005. So she and HBO entered into a second settlement agreement last November, where HBO again agreed to make sure the name was made inaudible on a global scale. But she claims that last month she discovered an audible copy on YouTube and alleges that HBO must have made it available to someone since signing the November ‘06 agreement. Which is just plain weird, especially considering that the show has been on DVD for a while now, so, you know, there are presumably a ton of folks who have a “clear” copy of the show, any one of whom could’ve posted it on YouTube.
But the most bizarre part of this case (to me, at least) is that she’s particularly upset by the statement that she was knocked up because it allegedly exposed her “to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy because it outright imputes unchastity to her, and it describes a sexual relationship with Plaintiff and an assertion of Plaintiff’s pregnancy by Baron Cohen as a result of that sexual relationship.” But she ignores the fact that Cohen didn’t say that he slept with her. Rather, the fictional character Ali G said he went with a person named Heddi Cundle. It was a fictional character speaking. Plus, no other identifying details were given which could connect the named female, Heddi Cundle, with the actual Heddi Cundle (unless she actually does have “her batty crease” shaved). So this whole thing just seems kind of ludicrous, and another attempt at a money-grab.