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SC congressman Joe Wilson tricked into saying he backs giving guns to toddlers: 'I was targeted'

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Wilson screenshot

In this screenshot of a clip from Sacha Baron Cohen's new satirical show, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale, appears to support a fake program to arm toddlers. Screenshot.

A South Carolina congressman on Sunday appeared to endorse a program to arm toddlers as young as 3 with guns, but he claims it was all a setup.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson is one of several lawmakers who were publicly pranked in the premiere of Sacha Baron Cohen's new Showtime series "Who is America?"

"A 3-year-old cannot defend itself from an assault rifle by throwing a Hello Kitty pencil case at it," Wilson says in the show's debut.

"Our founding fathers did not put an age limit on the Second Amendment," the Springdale Republican adds while sitting in his Washington office.

Cohen, who is best-known for his role as Borat Sagdiyev in the move "Borat," addressed the lawmaker by transforming himself into fake Israeli "anti-terror expert" character Col. Erran Morad.

During the segment, Cohen goes to Washington to discuss the fictitious "Kinderguardians" program to arm toddlers in preschools with guns.

Wilson wasn't the only D.C. lawmaker taken in.

"You want me to say on television that I support 3- and 4-year-olds with firearms? Is that what you’re asking me to do?" Florida  Rep. Matt Gaetz says. "Typically, members of Congress don’t just hear a story about a program and then indicate whether they support it or not."

That's when federal lawmakers, including Wilson, are seen seemingly endorsing the fake lobbying effort in back-to-back clips. The segment began making the rounds on social media the morning before the satirical show's Sunday night 10 p.m. debut.

Wilson said he was singled out by Cohen for his pro-Israel stance. 

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"Public officials of both parties, like everyone, can be the target of practical jokes — and that’s what you’ve seen in this instance," Wilson said in a statement provided to The Post and Courier on Sunday.

"The  request was to thank me for being a friend of Israel. I was  targeted due to my strong support of Israel and my open door office policy — and what I told this group was that I’ve worked to strengthen our relationship with Israel and that I will continue to work with President Donald Trump to do so."

Wilson's explanation of how he was chosen by Cohen for the show echoed that of former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh.

In an interview Sunday on CNN, Walsh said he, too, was interviewed under the guise of being praised for his pro-Israel stance. Walsh said TV crews told him he was "getting an award from some Israeli TV station because I'm a great supporter of Israel."

Wilson is not the first South Carolinian to deal with Cohen's antics.

In 2006, two University of South Carolina University students took legal action after their drunken appearance in the movie "Borat."

Showtime said Cohen's latest production has been in the works for the past year and "will explore the diverse individuals who populate our unique nation and features Baron Cohen experimenting in the playground of 2018 America."

The issue of gun control has intensified nationwide in recent years as more mass shootings continue to occur.

South Carolina has had two nationally followed shootings in the past three years. A self-avowed white supremacist gunned down nine black parishioners in Charleston's Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015. On Sept. 28, 2016, a 14-year-old boy opened fire on the playground at Townville Elementary School, killing a 6-year-old boy.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.

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