The organizers of a Saturday rally in Olympia, Washington, to protest the state’s anti-COVID stay-at-home orders—including the militiamen of 3% of Washington—were happy to have what they thought was a conservative PAC step up and finance the event. The PAC paid for facilities, outhouses, security, and promotion, and it all seemed good.
Then the guy in the fake beard and the goofy overalls leading a country band performing for the audience stepped up to the microphone and began singing a loudly racist song. That was about the time the “Patriots” began to realize they had just been pranked by Sacha Baron Cohen.
The PAC, according to the Seattle Times, calling itself Back to Work America, approached the organizers of the event—called “March For Our Rights”—about assisting with the event by providing security and financial help. It was apparently instead another prank operation by Cohen, the mock-documentary director of such prank-driven films as Borat and Who is America? Cohen is known for creating fictitious characters whose main purpose is to expose the hypocrisy and absurdity of politicians and their followers.
Matt Marshall and his 3% of Washington outfit, who have been among the leaders of the region’s far-right “Patriot” movement pushing back against the stay-at-home orders, were among the eager participants in Saturday’s Olympia rally. And most of the event featured speakers critical of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, as well as other figures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
About an hour into the program, a band called Warren G. Hardings—part of the musical entertainment paid for by the PAC—stepped up on the stage and began playing bluegrass music. Their singer, however, was peculiar: He had an obviously fake beard, and the overalls he wore were almost cartoonish.
Then he began singing a song with such lyrics as: “Obama, what we gotta do, inject him with the Wuhan flu,” and “W-H-O, what we gotta do, chop ‘em like the Saudis do,” and other disparaging references to such figures as Hillary Clinton and Dr. Anthony Fauci. A number of audience members, encouraged by the singer—who in fact was Cohen—happily sang along.
That was about the time that event organizers realized they had been snookered. One man began shouting at the band through a megaphone. Marshall and other members of the 3% militia tried to get backstage and were prevented by the security forces hired by the PAC.
As things began to heat up, Cohen and the band quickly left the stage, jumped into a waiting ambulance, and drove away from the event.
“He came on stage disguised as the lead singer of the last band, singing a bunch of racist, hateful, disgusting shit,” Yelm City Councilman James Blair wrote on Facebook after the event. “His security blocked event organizers from getting him off the stage, or pulling power from the generator.”
Marshall, who also is an enthusiast for the right-wing “Boogaloo” civil war movement, fumed afterward. He thanked the crowd for coming, and then apologized that they had been the butt of one of Cohen’s elaborate jokes. Afterward, he said he wanted an investigation to determine whether or not Inslee was involved in the stunt.
“The juvenile prank Cohen had orchestrated and his racist bigotry does not reflect the sentiments of the event organizers or the Washington 3%,” he wrote in a Facebook statement. “Cohen and his supporters have passed along their vile actions of hate as an overt act of the Washington 3%, calling us racists. This assertion is simply not true and we will defend this position vehemently.”
“We got catfished,” organizer Alan Acosta told the Times. “There was a singer up here that does not reflect the values of the people that attended there or the organizer.”
“We got had, I guess that’d be the best way to put it,” Marshall said. “We got punked.”