SOUTH JORDAN — Utah gun rights activist Janalee Tobias said she held a .22-caliber pistol cloaked in a stuffed toy puppy — the puppy pistol — and fed it bullets shaped like crayons to kill the bad guys.
Then she sang a song to the tune of "Stayin' Alive" and later sang, "If you're happy and you know it shoot your gun, bang bang."
Tobias admits she was punked by comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen for his upcoming Showtime series "Who Is America?" and joins the likes of other conservatives, such as former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, defeated Senate candidate Roy Moore and former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Bernie Sanders as well Ted Koppel have also been duped, according to news reports.
Tobias said the filming in Pennsylvania was the most humiliating experience of her life and that the exchange with who she was told was an "Israeli security expert" goes against everything she stands for when it comes to gun safety and children.
"It is probably the first time I can talk about this without crying. Since February I have been mortified. I guess I am in good company because he was able to con very famous people who are used to being in the limelight. We are really trusting people here and I took him at his word," Tobias told the Deseret News.
British comedian and actor Cohen, famous for his characters Borat and Ali G, has a new series that is set to debut on Sunday. In previous projects, Cohen often interacted with unsuspecting people who don’t realize he was in character using accents and disguises to set them up for comic situations, often in documentary style.
Tobias said she was approached via email by "First Freedom Television" to take part in a docuseries exploring shared security interests of Israel and the United States.
"As part of our project, we would love to facilitate a sit-down conversation between Janalee Tobias and an Israeli security expert to discuss the challenges we share," the solicitation said.
Tobias, founder and president of Women Against Gun Control, said she was one of many gun rights activists invited to participate the documentary. She says she knows of one other gun activist whom Cohen duped.
In February, the company paid for her flight, airfare and hotel and whisked her into a building to meet "Eran" in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Eran told her they wanted to teach a gun safety program to toddlers, which she said immediately put her on edge.
"I knew something went weird when they were putting guns inside of stuffed animals. 'Are there really some gun nuts who think this is a gun safety program or is this a comedy?'" she remembers wondering.
"Eran" showed her what he said was a news program recorded in Hebrew and subtitled describing how a young Israeli child who had taken a gun to school shot some terrorists when they attacked.
Tobias said he then reeled her in with a story of heartbreak.
"He said his son had been killed by terrorists and my heart went out to him. I get this. It's personal for him."
Her unease grew as he took the stuffed toy puppy and put it over a replica .22-caliber handgun.
"I looked at it and I am like, 'Are you for real?"'
Eran explained to "Yanalee," as he called her, that this was a program analyzed and endorsed by psychologists and sanctioned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to arm Israeli children with weapons to kill terrorists.
He then told her to talk in a childlike voice and explain to children how to load the "puppy," with bullets that looked like coloring crayons.
"Yanalee, will you teach the boys and girls how you safely handle puppy pistol?" he told her.
"Look at the pretty bullets," she said, imitating him. "No Yanalee, I want you take the bullets and show them. Yanalee tell them to look at the pretty colors."
It went on.
"What you do is your are just feeding the puppy the puppy food and (then) show them how you are tickling the tummy and the puppy spits it out and the bad guys go away," she said he told her. "I objected the whole time."
She said Eran towered over and was convincing, charming, pushy and funny.
"When I said he made me, he made me," she said, "I don't get made to do many things. … I really pride myself on being a strong person."
Then came the singing.
"Up, down, left, right. Stayin' alive, stayin' alive," she said. "He's funny OK. He's good. It's funny. But this is not funny with guns."
Tobias said had she been given a script she would never have agreed to for the show, instead she read words off a teleprompter.
"Every time he would bring out a new gun, I'd just say, 'No, do you know how hard this is for me to do?'"
Next came the "bunny" gun with a magazine painted like carrots.
"I think the bunny gun (song) was, 'Head, shoulders, knees and toes,'" she said. "But it was 'Head, shoulders, not the toes, not the toes.' … I objected the entire time, but I am sure he will not show (that)."
It got progressively worse, she said.
An Uzi and a unicorn that transformed into a "uzicorn."
"I thought it was completely ridiculous and irresponsible."
He told her she said, "This is not scary, pet the uzicorn Yanalee. … You don't need to be scared of it," he told her. "What you need to do is teach them not to be afraid so they kill the bad guys."
It climaxed with an RPG and sending the bad guys to the "moon."
"Again I objected the entire way. They assured me it was what Benjamin Netanyahu wanted," Tobias said.
She has since told them not to use her image and argued against airing any of the segment, but to no avail.
She feels betrayed, she said, and knows the show, if it airs, will portray anyone who supports gun rights as an over the top gun "nut."
As a longtime activist for government transparency, gun rights and open space, Tobias is used to being in the news, and said it makes her sad she was conned.
"He betrayed me, but he betrayed any media station that wants to interview and has a desire to find out a story. Now we don't if they are going to make a laughing stock out of people. But I am not going to let that scare me off."
Palin, the former Alaska governor, said in a Facebook post that she and a daughter traveled across the country for what she thought was a legitimate interview. But she says Cohen had "heavily disguised himself" as a disabled U.S. veteran in a wheelchair.
Palin says she sat through what she called a long interview full of "Hollywoodism's disrespect and sarcasm" before she walked out.
She is challenging Cohen and Showtime to donate proceeds from the show to a veterans' charity.
Defeated Senate candidate Moore is talking about a defamation suit. In a statement posted on Facebook, Moore says he accepted an all-expenses trip to Washington in February after being told he'd receive an award for supporting Israel. He says he didn't know Cohen would mock Israel and scheme to humiliate him and other conservatives.37 comments on this story
"I am involved in several court cases presently to defend my honor and character against vicious false political attacks by liberals like Cohen," Moore said. "If Showtime airs a defamatory attack on my character, I may very well be involved in another. As for Mr. Cohen, whose art is trickery, deception, and dishonesty, Alabama does not respect cowards who exhibit such traits!"
Moore is suing four women who raised decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct during his Senate race.
Contributing: Associated Press