"It wasn't funny being a real TV reporter from Kazakhstan trying to cover Ohio's recent elections - at a time when the nation's top box-office comedy featured a fake Kazakh TV reporter humiliating Americans.
A TV crew from Kazakhstan's Channel 31 was in Columbus on Nov. 6 and 7 to make a real documentary on the U.S. political system, but the crew got a wary reception from press secretaries who feared public skewering by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, star of the mockumentary "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."
It didn't help that the Kazakh cameraman's first name was "Bolat," a name similar to Cohen's alias. In Cohen's movie, his character Borat goads subjects into making outrageous racist and sexist statements for a fake documentary about the United States.
When the real central Asian TV crew showed up in Ohio, press secretaries for the state's Republican and Democratic parties were suspicious enough to verify their credentials with the U.S. State Department.
"They were really adamant that they were not Borat," said Ohio Democratic Party press secretary Randy Borntrager, adding that the film crew told him that "Borat" "is giving Kazakhstan a bad name."
State Department officials who supervised the TV crew's two-week multistate trip say they got apprehensive phone calls wherever the real Kazakhs went. Even the FBI called them to make sure the crew was legitimate.
"The timing of this was not good for the TV crew, because a lot of people thought they weren't for real. But the feeling in Kazakhstan right now seems to be that they are happy with anything that brings attention to their country," said George Santulli, the State Department official who oversaw their trip."
The cameraman's name was Bolat?? Poor guy. And poor Kazakhstan, if they're really "happy with anything that brings attention to their country." Sort of like being glad people beat you up, since at least they aren't ignoring you.