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Colbert tells GOP questioner ‘one day of me studying anything makes me an expert’

By David Edwards
Friday, September 24, 2010 10:00 EDT
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GOP lawmaker blasts Democrats over Colbert testimony

The plan for Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert to testify “in character” before a House of Representatives immigration subcommittee on Friday did not initially go as planned.

By 10 am, the hearing had become such a spectacle that Rep. John Conyers asked Colbert to “leave the committee room completely and submit your statement [in writing] instead.” The comedian did, however, return a few minutes later at the insistence of committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who had originally invited him.

Colbert proceeded to shake up the committee by delivering an opening statement that Conyers described as “significantly different from the one he presented” in advance.

Taking on his television persona as a conservative political commentator, Colbert said he was qualified to testify on the basis of his “vast experience” picking beans in a “farmworker for a day” program. “I didn’t ask them for their papers but I had a strong urge to,” he said of his fellow workers.

“I believe one day of me studying anything makes me an expert,” Colbert explained when challenged on his credentials as a witness.

At one point, Rep. Steve King of Iowa commented that although Colbert had claimed he packed corn during his one day as a farmworker, in a YouTube video of his show he actually appeared to be unpacking it.

Colbert was given a chance to respond and insisted, “I was a corn-packer — and I know that term is offensive to some people because ‘corn-packer’ is a term for a gay Iowan.”

King had previously issued a statement charging that Colbert’s presence at the hearing weakened the credibility of Democrats who were pressing for amnesty for illegal immigrants.

“Amnesty supporters frequently claim that Americans won’t do hard work, a claim which is insulting,” King said in the statement. “Maybe amnesty supporters should spend less time watching Comedy Central and more time considering all the real jobs that are out there that require hard labor and don’t involve sitting behind a desk. If they did, they would realize that every day American workers perform the dirtiest, most difficult, most dangerous jobs that can be thrown at them.”

Most of the committee’s questions were directed at the more serious witnesses, but Colbert did get in a few laugh lines, including, “I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican, sliced by a Guatemalan, served by a Colombian at a spa while a Chilean gives me a Brazilian.”

In his final chance to comment, however, Colbert briefly broke character to explain that he had gotten involved in the issue of migrant farmworkers because “I like talking about people who don’t have any power. … ‘Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers.’ … Migrant workers suffer and have no rights.”

Several video clips from Colbert’s testimony are below.

CNN had previously reported:

Stephen Colbert shined his comedic light on farm labor and immigration for his TV show. Now a House subcommittee is about to have him draw attention to the issues on Capitol Hill.

The Comedy Central funnyman, fresh off Thursday night’s “The Colbert Report” episode showing him packing corn and picking beans on a farm as part of a challenge from a pro-immigrant-labor group, is to appear before a House subcommittee on immigration.

He is expected to relate his experiences during the “Take Our Jobs” campaign, in which he spent a day with immigrant farm workers.

“They say that you truly know a man after you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, and while I have nowhere near the hardships of these struggling immigrants, I have been granted a sliver of insight,” according to his opening statement released in advance of his testimony.

Conyers asks Colbert to leave hearing

As the House immigration hearing began, Rep. John Conyers asked Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert to submit a statement and leave instead of speaking live.

This video is from C-SPAN 3, broadcast Sept. 24, 2010.


Colbert reads opening statement

Stephen Colbert read his five-minute opening statement to the House immigration committee.

This video is from C-SPAN 3, broadcast Sept. 24, 2010.


‘I believe one day of me studying anything makes me an expert’

Rep. Lamar Smith asked Colbert if he thought he was an expert on immigrant labor after working in the field for just one day.

This video is from C-SPAN 3, broadcast Sept. 24, 2010.


‘Migrant workers suffer and have no rights’

Rep. Judy Chu asked Colbert about the working conditions on the farm where he worked for a day.

This video is from C-SPAN 3, broadcast Sept. 24, 2010.


David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
 
 
 
 
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