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Sacha Baron Cohen Also Duped GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz - And He’s Thrilled

Sacha Baron Cohen strikes again.

Matt Gaetz, GOP representative, confirms that he, too, joins the legions of congressmen that have been duped by Sacha Baron Cohen. The comedian has been posing as a journalist and has tricked multiple politicians, including Sarah Palin and Judge Roy Moore, for his upcoming show Who is America?.

The Daily Beast informed Gaetz that he may have been punked, but Gaetz was originally unable to remember this ever occurring. However, after earnestly deliberating for hours, he was finally able to pinpoint an interview in which he felt that something had gone awry. He thinks back to an interview that he had regarding Israel and remembers feeling oddly about it, describing the interviewer to be a man with dark hair and a face laden with heavy makeup.

Gaetz, a self-proclaimed fan of Baron Cohen, laughed when he remembered the strange interaction. “There were points in the interview where he wanted me to like hold up images of weapons systems and endorse those weapons systems,” the congressman recalled. “And I said, I would not do that, of course. I don’t know these weapons systems, I’m not going to talk about them.” Although he thought the interview had been uncomfortable, he admits that “they totally got me”; he had no idea that he was being punked until now but, unlike most of his infuriated congressional cohorts, Gaetz is very excited to view the show. “I can’t wait to see it.”

Who is America? premieres on Showtime this Sunday.

Tamar Skydell is an intern at The Forward. You can contact her at skydell@forward.com

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Bob Weinstein Steps down from Weinstein Company Board

The Weinstein Company is no longer affiliated with the Weinsteins.

The Weinstein Company announced in a statement on Thursday that Bob Weinstein and 3 other board members will resign from their positions on the board on Friday.

Despite Bob Weinstein’s feverish attempt to hold on to his prominent role at the studio he co-founded, the company has chosen to eliminate most of its board members in a clear-cut effort to start anew. The highly publicized accusations of sexual misconduct against Bob’s now-infamous brother, Harvey Weinstein, have taken a toll on the Weinstein Company’s name, leading it to file for bankruptcy and sell itself to Lantern Capital Partners for $289 million.

Bankruptcy consultants have joined the company to help aid in the transition of the bankruptcy sale to Lantern Capital Partners. Ivona Smith, a bankruptcy professional who was added to the board in the Spring, is now the sole remaining member of that board. She has spoken about this unsurprising change, saying, that “’In the face of intense public scrutiny, this Board steered the Company to an orderly sale and maximized value for the Company and its creditors,” Smith said in a statement, “The Company thanks the outgoing Board members for their hard work and contributions. Following the closing of the sale to Lantern, the Company will continue to work expeditiously to wind down the Company and distribute equitably the remaining assets.”

Tamar Skydell is an intern at The Forward. You can contact her at skydell@forward.com

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Weinstein Denies Saying He Offered “Acting Jobs In Exchange For Sex”

In a purported exclusive interview with gossip columnist Taki Theodoracopulos of the conservative magazine The Spectator, Harvey Weinstein pled a personal case:

“You were born rich and privileged and you were handsome. I was born poor, ugly, Jewish and had to fight all my life to get somewhere,” Theodoracopulos says Weinstein told him. “You got lotsa girls, no girl looked at me until I made it big in Hollywood. Yes, I did offer them acting jobs in exchange for sex, but so did and still does everyone. But I never, ever forced myself on a single woman.”

Now a lawyer for Weinstein who was present, Benjamin Brafman, is saying that his client did not discuss “the case” against him and “never said anything about trading movie roles for sexual favors.”

In an email to the Forward, Juda Engelmayer, the head of the public relations firm that represents Weinstein, claimed that Theodoracopulos, has said this about the article: “After 41 years as a Spectator columnist without a single retraction, I believe that I may have misrepresented Harvey Weinstein’s conversation with me in New York last month. I [sic] was my mistake. We were discussing Hollywood and I may have misunderstood certain things about the methods of that place. I had nothing to do with the headline of my article and I hope I have not damaged his case. it was, after all, a social visit.”

We will update this story as it develops.

Jenny Singer is the deputy lifestyle editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

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Scarlett Johansson Drops Controversial Trans Movie Role After Outcry

Scarlett Johansson has dropped out of “Rub and Tug,” the movie in which she was cast to play a transgender man.

The actress gave a statement to Out.com, saying, “In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project.” This is a departure from the Johansson camp’s original statement on July 3, Bustle reported: “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment” a rep for Johansson said at the time.

It’s true that Johansson was not the first cisgender person to be cast to play trans, but she is the first to drop the role. The decision likely results from the phenomenal amount of criticism Johansson received after the casting was announced. Many saw Johansson as already on strike two when it comes to poor casting choices — she courted major controversy when she played a Japanese cyborg in the 2017 movie “Ghost in a Shell” though she is white. The director of “Rub and Tug,” Rupert Sanders, also directed her in that movie. The internet expressed bitter joy in depicting Johansson’s “white washing” with especially excoriating comedy.

Many activists including a significant number of transgender actresses spoke out against Johansson’s casting. They pointed out that telling transgender stories without transgender voices no longer makes much sense — if transgender people don’t get cast in roles telling their own stories, then those stories only serve to make movie studios money and make audiences feel good about themselves. Many people felt that a cisgender person should never play a transgender person. Others felt that the crime Johansson and producers of “Rub and Tug” committed speaks to a problem that is bigger than just one movie — transgender performers just aren’t invited into casting rooms. They aren’t seen as viable to play any roles — even to play their own identities.

Johansson told Out, “Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.”

Jenny Singer is the deputy lifestyle editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

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Orthodox Woman Has 10th Child On Same Day She Becomes A Grandmother

Elisheva Baumel, a resident of the Jerusalem neighborhood Givat Ze’ev, gave birth to her 10th child within 24 hours of the birth of her first grandchild.

Baumel gave birth in Hadassah Har Hatzofim hospital shortly after her daughter-in-law Leah Baumel also gave birth in the very same ward.

The overwhelmingly special nature of this scenario still hasn’t quite sunken in for the family. “Just yesterday I was holding both new wonderful babies and I became overwhelmed with joy,” Elisheva told Yediot Ahronot.

“It was a very special experience,” said Aharon Shmuel Baumel, grandfather-and-father, who is a medic for the Magen David Adom ambulance corps.

“We are always happy when something like this happens,” said Professor Simcha Yagel, Director of the Maternity Ward of Hadassah. “It is certainly gratifying to see that even the next generation chooses to give birth here at Hadassah. Generally, the grandmother helps her daughter-in-law to raise the grandchildren, only a few merit that the grandmother and daughter-in-law should raise their children together.”

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