Jason Spencer, the Georgia Republican lawmaker who was fooled into repeatedly yelling a racial epithet on the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s television series, intends to resign effective July 31. The decision was announced early Wednesday in an email from the office of David Ralston, the Georgia House speaker.
It was the first real-world consequence of Mr. Cohen’s Showtime series, “Who Is America?” The show has pranked a long list of sitting and former lawmakers, including the former Vice President Dick Cheney; Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California; and the former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
The episode featuring Mr. Spencer aired on Sunday, and he initially resisted calls to resign, even from within his own party. Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, said in a post on Twitter on Monday that “the actions and language used by Jason Spencer are appalling and offensive.” Mr. Spencer lost his primary in the spring in his bid for a fifth term and initially said he would serve out his final five months, but the drum beat became too loud.
By the time the speaker’s office announced the resignation, a fierce bipartisan effort to cast Mr. Spencer out of office had taken shape. It was clear that he would face sustained public and private pressure, and black lawmakers had planned a state Capitol news conference for Wednesday morning to demand that Mr. Spencer step aside.
State Senator Lester Jackson, a Democrat from Savannah and the chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, had vowed that he and other colleagues could not “continue to tolerate the well-documented and outright bigotry and reprehensible conduct” by Mr. Spencer.
But Mr. Spencer faced some of the most intense condemnation from his own party, whose leaders, despite being focused on the final days of a contested primary runoff for governor, sensed deep political risk in a fast-growing state.
Mr. Ralston, a Republican, said that Mr. Spencer had “disgraced himself,” and his office let it be known that Democratic and Republican leaders were in talks about jointly filing an ethics complaint against him.
The campaign of Brian Kemp, a Republican candidate for governor who had drawn Mr. Spencer’s endorsement, said it had erased the lawmaker’s name from its roster of endorsements.
“Rep. Spencer’s words and behavior are hurtful, insensitive and completely unacceptable,” Mr. Kemp said in a statement. “At the very least, he should issue a public apology for this shameful incident.”
Mr. Spencer’s resignation was announced just hours after it became apparent that Mr. Kemp had won the Republican nomination for governor.
Before the episode aired, Mr. Spencer released a statement saying that Mr. Cohen had tricked him into participating in a “bogus self-defense and antiterrorism training” video, in response to death threats Mr. Spencer had received. He had proposed and later withdrawn legislation that critics said would have banned Muslims from wearing veils. Mr. Spencer threatened legal action and added, “This media company’s deceptive and fraudulent behavior is exactly why President Donald Trump was elected.”
But then Mr. Cohen’s show hit the airwaves, and in this segment, Mr. Cohen played Col. Erran Morad, an Israeli antiterrorism expert, and Mr. Spencer was seen on camera dropping his pants, mocking a stereotypical Asian accent and seemingly not requiring much coaxing to yell the racial epithet, spurring immediate outrage. He also used a slur to refer to people from the Middle East.
Mr. Spencer, a 43-year-old physician assistant, released a second statement to The Washington Post on Monday apologizing. “As uncomfortable as I was to participate, I agreed to, understanding that these ‘techniques’ were meant to help me and others fend off what I believed was an inevitable attack,” he said. “My fears were so heightened at that time, I was not thinking clearly nor could I appreciate what I was agreeing to when I participated in his ‘class.’”
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