He has for many years refused to give interviews as himself. From time to time he talked like his characters. He tended to let criticism pass without rebuttal, such as when reporters wondered if Ali G was in the Al Jolson lore and when Abe Foxman, the former director of the Anti-Defamation League, criticized Borat, fearing that the character might incite the anti-Semitism because some people may lose the irony.
After the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a dismayed Mr Baron Cohen contacted Jonathan Greenblatt, the director of the ADL, who convinced the star to give the speech at last year̵
“I was so impressed with his intelligence,” Greenblatt said. “These issues are at the heart of his motive for his unique art style. Today more than anyone else in public life, he denounces prejudice – whether it be anti-Semitism, homophobia or high-ranking racism – for what it is, shameful, heartbreaking and ignorant. “(In fact, Mr. Baron Cohen used Hebrew and some Polish as a substitute for the Kazakh language in Borat.)
The actor began his speech by saying that, to be clear, “when I say ‘racism, hatred and fanaticism’, I am not referring to the names of Stephen Miller’s Labradoodles”. He later noted that while his stunts may have been “juvenile” and “childish”, at least some are aimed at getting people to reveal what they really believe, such as “when Borat managed to get an entire bar in Arizona to sing ‘Getta the Jew in the Well “revealed people’s indifference to anti-Semitism”.
By burning the cloud lords, he said Facebook would run and micro-target any “political” ad anyone wants, even if it’s a lie. “If Facebook existed in the 1930s,” he said, “it would have allowed Hitler to run 30-second announcements about his ‘solution’ to the ‘Jewish problem’.”
The speech catalyzed the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign, with a coalition of civil rights groups and Mr. Baron Cohen squabbling with celebrities. Making the speech was “completely out of my comfort zone,” he said, because “I’ve always been reluctant to be a celebrity and I’ve always been wary of using my fame to push any political point of view, really.”