Lawsuit filed against 20th Century Fox

A businessman seen fleeing from a hug from British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in the hit movie “Borat” has sued filmmaker 20th Century Fox, saying his civil rights were violated.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, seeks unspecified damages on behalf of the businessman, who listed himself as John Doe. The New York Post reported Thursday that the businessman was Jeffrey Lemerond, 31.

Lemerond, a Dartmouth College graduate and financial analyst, was shown running and yelling “Go away!” as Cohen’s Borat character, a phony Kazakh journalist, chased him down Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue in an attempt to hug strangers. His lawyer did not immediately return a telephone message for comment Thursday.

The film company said that Lemerond’s claim was “completely without merit” and that it would “aggressively defend this lawsuit” and anticipated it would prevail.

“Consistent with the First Amendment, New York law does not recognize this kind of claim in connection with the ‘Borat’ movie or other literary works and films that are matters of interest to the public,” spokesman Chris Petrikin said.

Cohen’s 2006 film, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” has led to several lawsuits and criticism that he depicts the nation as bigoted and backward.

Lemerond’s June 1 lawsuit said the businessman suffered “public ridicule, degradation and humiliation” as a result of his appearance in the film. It said 20th Century Fox knew it was unlawful to use Lemerond’s likeness without his consent because the company scrambled his face in a trailer but did not do so in the movie.

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