Georgia state representative Jason Spencer is no longer most famous for introducing a 2016 bill to ban Muslims from wearing veils or threatening a black female Democrat by telling her he couldn’t “guarantee you won’t be met with torches but something a lot more definitive.” No, thanks to Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America?, he’s now known for something else. As the New York Times reports, on Monday morning, speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston released a statement responding to Spencer’s Who Is America? appearance, in which he dropped his pants and used multiple racial slurs. “Representative Spencer has disgraced himself and should resign immediately,” Ralston said in his statement. “Georgia is better than this.”
Elsewhere, Republican Georgia governor Nathan Deal responded to Spencer’s segment on Twitter, saying he is “saddened and disgusted” by Spencer’s behavior. Republican candidate for governor Brian Kemp, who had previously listed Spencer as one of his supporters, released a statement of his own saying “Rep. Spencer’s words and behavior are hurtful, insensitive and completely unacceptable. At the very least, he should issue a public apology for this shameful incident.”
Spencer’s Facebook page appears to have been deleted since his big Who Is America? debut.
Update: Spencer issued a statement to Washington Post reporter Steven Zeitchik, which Zeitchik tweeted in a thread Monday afternoon. Spencer said he would “finish the remaining five months at my post and vacate my seat.” You can read the 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 be eligible to hold office next term. Therefore, I will finish the remaining five months at my post and vacate my seat.
Update July, 25: Or not! A spokesperson for Georgia House Speaker David Ralston released a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution confirming that Spencer will step down at the end of the month rather than complete his term through November. According to the report, Georgia Republican leaders “were researching ways to reprimand him, and two legislative leaders discussed filing a joint ethics complaint targeting Spencer’s behavior.”