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Trump Administration Energy Secretary and Former Texas Governor Rick Perry turned himself into a national laughing stock back in 2011 when, during a debate between contenders for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination, he forgot mid-sentence the name of a government agency he was planning to close down if elected President. But in hindsight, he’s probably glad the question wasn’t about world leaders.
That’s because on July 19, Perry, thinking he was speaking with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, held a 22-minute phone call with Russian comedy duo Vladimir Krasnov and Alexei Stolyarov, known for pulling pranks on famous people reminiscent of Sacha Baron Cohen in his Bruno, Ali G and Borat personas. During the call, Perry discussed a wide range of topics including the Paris climate accord, coal policy, development of gas and oil in Ukraine, and sanctions against Russia, unaware the whole time that he was speaking with comedians known for pranking famous people.
Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes confirmed the conversation too place, saying in a statement that “these individuals are known for pranking high-level officials and celebrities, particularly those who are supportive of an agenda that is not in line with their governments. In this case, the energy security of Ukraine.” Hynes did not explain how Perry’s staff mistook the pranksters for legitimate Ukrainian officials.
It could have been far worse, of course — at least it didn’t reach the depths of the infamous 2006 prank when, in an episode of “Da Ali G Show,” Sacha Baron Cohen led the crowd of an Arizona country bar to sing along to the song “In My Country There is Problem,” which featured highly antisemitic lyrics.
Oh, and by the way, the department Perry said he forgot during that long-ago debate answer? Energy.