Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat Roasts Kanye West at Kennedy Center Honors: ‘He’s Too Antisemitic Even For Us’

There is nothing funny about Kanye West‘s repeated amplification of antisemitic tropes and hate speech over the past month. In a series of interviews and media appearances, the artist who now goes by Ye has made a series of comments denigrating the Jewish people, culminating last week with an appearance on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show in which Ye stated “I like Hitler.”


But if there is one person who has the unique ability to transform hate into hilarity, it is Sacha Baron Cohen. The acclaimed comedian — who is Jewish — appeared at this weekend’s Kennedy Center Honors in the guise of his belovedly profane, offensive-to-everyone dopey journalist character Borat Sagdiyev to pay tribute to honorees U2.

Kazakhstan’s least reliable source of news took the stage and expressed genuine confusion that President Biden is the current White House resident. “I know the president of U.S. and A is here. Where are you, Mr. Trump?” Borat asked according to a transcript of the appearance from The Guardian.

“You don’t look so good,” Borat said to Biden. “Where has your glorious big belly gone? And your pretty orange skin has become pale… But I see you have a new wife. Wawa-woooah! She is very erotic. I must look away before I get a Bono.”

But the sharpest barbs from the comedian whose work skewers hate and intolerance with even more absurdly hateful, intolerant punchlines that shine a sharp satiric light on xenophobic and homophobic hate speech went all-in on Ye in the wake of the rapper’s latest exile from Twitter for posting an image of a swastika last week.

“Before I proceed, I will say I am very upset about the antisemitism in US and A. It not fair,” Borat said. “Kazakhstan is No 1 Jew-crushing nation. Stop stealing our hobby. Stop the steal! Stop the steal! Your Kanye, he tried to move to Kazakhstan and even changed his name to Kazakhstan-Ye West. But we said: ‘No, he too antisemitic, even for us.’”

In a classic Borat bit, Cohen then sang a brief parody of U2’s “Without or Without You,” with the lyrics switched up to “With or Without Jews,” as titters erupted in the crowd and he asked, “What’s the problem? They loved this at Mar-a-Lago. They chose Without Jews.”

West, who does not appear to be promoting any projects at the moment, has been on a month-long media tour of right-wing media outlets in which he has unashamedly denigrated the Jewish people while also praising the murderous Nazi regime. The disgraced MC whose once-massive music and fashion portfolio has gone into free-fall since he began spouting antisemitic and racist statements continued his bizarre hate tour on his Instagram feed on Sunday when he made what was couched as a joke about Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s ethnic heritage.

“Am I the only one who thinks Elon could be half-Chinese?,” West asked. “Have you ever seen his pics as a child?” Musk was born in South Africa to a Canadian mother and South African father and it was unclear what West was referring to in questioning the billionaire Space X/Tesla founder’s ethnicity. 

Without mentioning Ye by name, President Biden issued a pointed statement on the dangers of antisemitism and the embrace of Nazis on Friday in the wake of West’s Hitler praise on Jones’ show. “I just want to make a few things clear: The Holocaust happened. Hitler was a demonic figure,” Biden tweeted in a statement. “And instead of giving it a platform, our political leaders should be calling out and rejecting antisemitism wherever it hides. Silence is complicity.”

The strongly worded statement from Biden starkly contrasted with the recent scene at Donald Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago resort, where the twice-impeached president hosted Ye as well as far right activist and white nationalist Nick Fuentes, who is also known for spewing antisemitic rhetoric. Also present at the lunch that Trump hosted on the high-visibility patio at his golf club was Ye’s apparent 2024 presidential campaign manager — who has reportedly since been fired — professional right-wing troll Milo Yiannopoulos, who has been blocked from most major social media platforms for his slurs against Islam and feminism, and his embrace of antisemitic figures.

West’s doubling and tripling-down on hate speech comes just months after the Anti-Defamation League — which tracks anti-Semitic behavior nationwide — reported a 34% rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2021 (to 2,717), which averaged out to more than seven such incidents per day.

Gil Kaufman