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Ga. lawmaker who used racial slurs in TV show resigns

The Georgia lawmaker who exposed himself and yelled racial slurs during an episode of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Showtime series is resigning his seat in the state Legislature, according to House Speaker David Ralston’s office.

State Rep. Jason Spencer faced increasing pressure to step down shortly after the episode of “Who is America?” aired Sunday night, and some politicians were urging a special session to oust him if he refused. He will step down at the end of the month, Ralston spokesman Kaleb McMichen said late Tuesday. 

Spencer apologized for the “ridiculously ugly episode,” but initially refused to resign. Although he lost the GOP primary in May, he could have remained in public office through the November general election. 

“Sacha Baron Cohen and his associates took advantage of my paralyzing fear that my family would be attacked,” said Spencer, who added that he was told the techniques would deter “what I believed was an inevitable attack.” 

If he refused to step down, he faced potential repercussions: Georgia Republican leaders were researching ways to reprimand him, and two legislative leaders discussed filing a joint ethics complaint targeting Spencer’s behavior. 

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But he also had financial incentive to stay. If he had remained in office through January, he would have logged eight years of service and become eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance for life.

What You Need to Know: Jason Spencer

Read more: Jason Spencer and the ‘crazy’ factor in Georgia politics

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Read more: In Rep. Jason Spencer's Southeast Georgia district, disgust at his racist words, antics

The episode shows Cohen, who portrayed himself as an Israeli military expert, at a gym persuading Spencer to take part in what he was told was a counterterrorism video. 

Cohen gets Spencer to yell racial epithets, make offensive remarks about Chinese tourists and pull down his pants and shimmy his naked buttocks toward purported attackers while yelling “USA” and “America.” He was told these tactics ward off homophobic militants. 

(Watch Spencer’s unedited appearance on the show, which contains profanity and nudity) 

In another clip after the show’s credits, Spencer returns to the camera with a “message to the terrorists.” He then repeats a racial slur and stabs a knife into the groin area of a dummy clad in a black burqa before shoving another item into the dummy’s mouth.

At the end of the segment, Spencer reminds the audience he’s an elected official serving in the Georgia Legislature. It ends with the Georgia peach logo flashing on screen. 

It was the most humiliating yet to air on Cohen’s new show, which last week featured several Republican lawmakers and gun rights supporters backing a fictitious program to teach kindergartners to use firearms.

Spencer told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week that he was considering legal action against the show’s producers, and he claimed they “took advantage of my fears that I would be attacked by someone” to persuade him to appear. 

“They exploited my state of mind for profit and notoriety,” said Spencer, who said he was denied the chance to have final approval over what will air. “This media company’s deceptive and fraudulent behavior is exactly why President Donald Trump was elected.”

Spencer has declined to comment further and couldn’t be reached late Tuesday. Showtime has denied that Cohen or the show’s producers acted improperly

Spencer was defeated by Republican challenger Steven Sainz after four terms representing a conservative southeast Georgia district, where he grabbed headlines that enraged lawmakers from both parties. 

He faced calls for resignation late last year after he warned a black former state legislator that she won’t be “met with torches but something a lot more definitive” if she continued to advocate for the removal of Confederate statues in South Georgia. 

And Republican leaders roundly criticized his legislative proposal that would bar women from wearing burqas on public property, forcing him to withdraw the legislation.  

This year, he shifted his focus toward a bill that would have allowed adult survivors of child sexual abuse more time to file lawsuits. The bill didn’t pass amid powerful opposition from the Boy Scouts and some other nonprofit organizations.

 

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