Daughter of Kazakhstan's president defends Borat
British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who has drawn harsh criticism from Kazakhstan for his satirical jabs at the nation, has found an unlikely defender: the president's daughter.
Cohen is best known for portraying several offensive characters on his cable TV comedy program Da Ali G Show.
One of his regular characters is a crude, chauvinistic, anti-Semitic TV host named Borat Sagdiyev, who is purportedly from the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan.
In his Borat skits, Cohen depicts Kazakhstan as a boorish, backward state full of racists, misogynists and drunks.
Last November, Kazakhstan's foreign ministry threatened to sue Cohen after objecting to statements he made while he hosted last year's MTV Europe Music Awards – which he did in character as Borat.
Also, the government later banned a Borat website Cohen produces.
Dariga Nazarbayev, a politician and the daughter of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, says that this reaction by Kazakh officials hurt the country's image much more than Cohen's satire itself.
Cohen's website "damaged our image much less than its closure, which was covered by all global news agencies," she told Kazakh newspaper Karavan in an interview published Friday.
"We should not be afraid of humour and we shouldn't try to control everything, I think," added Nazarbayev, the former head of the country's state-run Khabar news agency who is considered a leading candidate to replace her father upon his retirement.
The award-winning, Cambridge University-educated Cohen has frequently drawn criticism for the outlandish characters on his program, which airs on HBO in the U.S. and on Showcase in Canada.
On his show, Cohen (as various characters) conducts interviews with unsuspecting subjects, including prominent politicians and celebrities such as Noam Chomsky and Donald Trump. He uses the interviewer's persona to ask coarse, misguided or impertinent questions that often help to reveal hidden prejudices or challenge prevailing social values.
In past episodes as the ridiculous Borat, Cohen has convinced Arizona bar patrons to sing a made-up, anti-Semitic folk song and nearly provoked a riot at a Virginia rodeo after mangling the U.S. national anthem.
Hosting the 2005 MTV Europe Music Awards as Borat, Cohen joked about Kazakh citizens shooting dogs for fun and said the country forbids women from leaving. He also responded to the lawsuit threatened by Kazakh officials by continuing to poke fun at the country on his website.