Philip Van Cleave is speaking out about how he was duped into supporting arming toddlers in Sacha Baron Cohen’s new comedic series on Showtime, “Who is America?” (see video below).
Van Cleave, who serves as the president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), released a statement via the organization’s Facebook page on Tuesday.
“So far I have seen just the early part of the ‘First Look’ at Cohen’s series. He had some very crafty and unethical editing done to take a comment I made about one subject and seamlessly splicing it into a different conversation, completely changing the context of what I was talking about,” said Van Cleave.
“For example, NOT seen in the video is a disguised Cohen discussing educating children about gun safety in Israel. He claimed in Israel they start gun safety very young. My response, which is shown, is ‘we’re trying to get that here for 7th and 8th graders, but can’t do it.’ Instead, the video shows Cohen talking about arming kids against terrorists, and then he splices in my response about firearms safety training, so it looks like I’m saying we’re trying to arm CHILDREN in schools, instead of teachers and other adults,” said Van Cleave.
Van Cleave cites another example where the prankster presumably edits the film to mislead the viewer.
“Another example NOT seen on the video is Cohen asking about a bill that VCDL defeated that would have made it illegal for 4 to 6 year-olds to be able to shoot a gun, including an airgun, WITH or without parental supervision and consent,” said Van Cleave.
SEE ALSO: Gun Training Good. Forced Training Bad.
“The video shows my response that it was a bad bill and that we killed it. (Not shown was an additional comment that parents should decide such things for their own children.) However, my comment is spliced into a different conversation that makes it sound like I’m condoning 4-year-olds having UNSUPERVISED access to guns and VCDL killed a bill that would have made such a thing illegal!” Continued the gun-rights advocate.
While those conversations were unsettling, probably the most striking part of the segment was the firearms training video geared toward toddlers. Van Cleave is shown holding several “Gunimals,” firearms decorated to resemble stuffed animals. In one part, he explains how to load one called “Puppy Pistol.”
“To feed him, take his lunch box and push it into his tummy like this,” explains Van Cleave, while loading the magazine. “Just remember to point Puppy Pistol’s mouth right at the middle of the bad man. If he has a big fat tummy, point at that.”
With respect to this ruse, Van Cleave said, “My hesitation when Cohen asks me if I’ll help him make a safety training video for children is where I was deciding to play along or not in order to figure out who was behind this film, what they were actually doing and how they were doing it, and then getting the word out to head this off at the pass and keep it from being completed.”
Van Cleave added that the “guns” in the video were all “silly plastic guns which were glued to toys or stuffed animals” and that the content was “read from a teleprompter.” Back in February, the VCDL learned that it was all a joke and sent out a warning to its members. Unfortunately, by that time, it was too late for Van Cleave. Cohen had got the footage he needed.
Cohen also targeted Larry Pratt, the executive director emeritus of Gun Owners of America, former Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-MS), Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (D-CA) and conservative radio host Joe Walsh.
Whether this game of “gotcha” has any political ramifications for Wilson and Rohrabacker remains to be seen. Certainly, the anti-gun lobby is taking note.
“Americans can laugh at the absurdity of this stunt program, but when they cast their ballots in November, voters would do well to consider how candidates such as Rohrabacher and Wilson will vote on the issue of gun safety,” said Moms Demand Action in a press release.