Comedy Central comic Stephen Colbert didn’t wait until his planned Oct. 30 mock D.C. march to come to Washington. Colbert was in town Friday to testify at a House Immigration Subcommittee hearing on “Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law.”
Colbert said he was testifying as an American citizen, but did so as his bombastic TV character. His humorous take drew primarily nervous laughter as he made serious points with a series of satiric observations. He took aim at arguments that immigrants take American jobs. For example, if we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we make the earth waist high, he said, after pointing out that workers have to bend over to pick beans.
Colbert was there at the invitation of the Subcommittee’s chair, but the head of the full committee almost dropped the curtain on the show before it began.
Cameras filled the room as they waited for Colbert to weigh in. “A pretty full room” is how C-SPAN described it. C-SPAN said it would be the second time a fictional character would be testifying, Elmo from Sesame Street being the first.
Colbert was joined by the head of the United Farm Workers on the witness stand, among others.
He had joked about the appearance on his show after Fox’s Gretchen Carlson complained about his planned appearance. Colbert said that he would be paying for his own food, meals, and the mobile snowblower that would allow him to cross country ski to Washington.
We realize that there is great interest in the plight of migrant farm workers said Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) in her opening statement , but if the cameras can’t pull back, I will ask them to leave.
She spent a day picking vegetables on a farm with Colbert, the two put together by the UFW.
She again cautioned that they needed to maintain order. Lofgren asked the audience to refrain from disruptions, warning that Capitol police were ready to enforce order.
She pointed to the power of celebrities to put a spotlight on the issue.
Maybe we should be watching less Comedy Central, said ranking member Steve King (R-Iowa) in his opening remakrks, and pay more attention to the American workers who work hard, like soldiers. King spent his time taking aim at illegal alien workers, saying they drove wages down and making it impossible for American workers to compete.
Cuts to Colbert showed him attentive, head cocked, as the statements continued.
Howard Berman (D-Calif.) appeared to agree with Lofgren that the attention on the morning’s hearing was helpful.
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said that he was glad Colbert was there and that he couldn’t remember the last time the room had been that full. Lofgren said it may have been impeachment.
Conyers, the chairman of the parent Judiciary Committee, plugged Colbert’s march, saying that he expected lots of folks to be there, but that he would not be there because he would be home trying to get out the vote.
Conyers then revealed his cards, showing himself to be in the camp of those who saw Colbert’s appearance as a stunt. He asked him to leave without testifying so the hearing could proceed, which took Colbert by surprise.
Colbert, who had submitted a statement, said that he was there at Lofgren’s invitation, and only her invitation, and that if they wanted him to leave, he would be glad to.
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.). for one, thanked Colbert for making an appearance.
In introducing the panel, Lofgren described Colbert as the host and EP of the Emmy and Peabody-award winning series, The Colbert Report.
She pointed out he had worked with the UMW and spent that day on an upstate New York farm.
Colbert appeared last on the lineup of witnesses.
Smith said he agreed with Colbert that legislators ought to read the bills they write. He asked Colbert how many workers he worked with on the New York farm were illegal aliens. Colbert said he did not, and also did not know how much they were paid.
Colbert said he believed he was invited to the hearing because he agreed to take the UFW up on working one day in the fields. Asked if he would like to repeat that experience, Colbert said he did not even want to watch “Green Acres” again.