Stephen Colbert’s congressional testimony was anything but funny, Republicans say


WASHINGTON — Comedian Stephen Colbert’s satirical testimony before a House subcommittee last week was “an
embarrassment” that should not have happened, the second-ranking House
Democrat said Sunday.

“I think his testimony was not appropriate,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on “Fox News Sunday.” “What he had to say was not the way it should have been said.”

Hoyer’s position contrasted with that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who said the opposite Friday after Colbert testified before a judiciary subcommittee on immigration.

“Of course I think it’s appropriate,” Pelosi told
reporters on Friday “He’s an American, right? He comes before the
committee, has a point of view, he can bring attention to an important
issue like immigration.”

“I think it’s great,” Pelosi added.

Colbert, who parodies a generic self-important right
wing talk show host for his nightly show on Comedy Central, “The
Colbert Report,” testified in character, doling out the same sort of
acerbic barbs that drew both praise and criticism when he eviscerated
the news media and President George W. Bush at the
2006 White House Correspondents Dinner. His comedy often comes at the
expense of Republicans, as does that of his Comedy Central partner, Jon Stewart.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.,
the subcommittee chairwoman, had asked Colbert to testify after they
spent a day together picking beans and packing corn as part of the
United Farm Workers’ Take Our Jobs campaign, which invites Americans to
try their hand at field work. The comedian turned it into a bit that
aired on his show last week.

“His actions are a good example of how using both
levity and fame, a media figure can bring attention to a critically
important issue for the good of the nation,” Lofgren said as she opened
the hearing into a bill that would legalize undocumented field workers.

When it came time for his testimony, Colbert offered
to submit a video of his colonoscopy into the congressional record as
evidence that produce is “a necessary source of roughage.”

As for the labor pool, “this is America,” the
comedian said. “I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it
picked by an American, then sliced by a Guatemalan and served by a
Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian. Because my
great-grandfather did not travel across 4,000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean to see this country overrun by immigrants.”

Still, “after working with these men and women
picking beans, packing corn for hours on end, side by side in the
unforgiving sun, I have to say — and I do mean this sincerely — please
don’t make me do this again,” Colbert added. “It is really, really

“Maybe this AgJobs bill would help,” he concluded. “I don’t know. Like most members of Congress, I haven’t read it.”

Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich.,
who chairs the Full Judiciary Committee, was not happy about Colbert’s
appearance, asking him during Friday’s hearing to “leave the committee
room completely and submit your statement instead.”

Republicans also were not amused, saying the
performance was particularly inappropriate at a time of 10 percent
unemployment and widespread economic pain. Subcommittee member Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R- Utah, called Colbert’s appearance “sad” and “unfortunate.”

Hoyer said Colbert’s testimony was an embarrassment for Mr. Colbert more than the House.


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