Stephen Colbert’s Surreal Congressional Testimony (VIDEO)


In a surreal act of political theater, Stephen Colbert testified in character before a House hearing on immigrant farm workers Friday morning. The Comedy Central host had spent a day picking produce on a farm on behest of the United Farm Workers, who have been running a cheeky “Take Our Jobs” campaign that invited native-born Americans to apply for jobs typically taken by illegal immigrant workers. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Ca.), chairwoman of a House Judiciary subcommitee, invited him to testify before Congress based on that experience. There’s really no way to summarize Colbert’s testimony, so here’s the video of his statement from the hearing:

Colbert’s live testimony almost didn’t happen. Before the witnesses spoke, House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) described himself as a big fan of Colbert—praising the rally that he and Jon Stewart planned for next month—but said he’d “would recommend that we’ve got all this attention, you could excuse yourself.” Colbert ultimately ended up staying, but Conyers’ remarks reflected anxieties among some Democrats who thought the publicity stunt would ultimately trivialize the issues at hand and humiliate them. (Colbert isn’t the first fictional character to appear before Congress: as Rep. Judy Chu (D-Ca.) pointed out, Republicans once invited Elmo to speak about music education before a House committee. (They also invited Loretta Swit, who played “Hot Lips” on the TV show M.A.S.H.)

House Republicans took their shots in the hearing. “Maybe we should spend less time watching Comedy Central and more time looking for the jobs that are out there,” said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the subcommittee. Later on, King even accused Colbert of not actually doing typical farm work during his one-day stint with the UFW, claiming that the comedian was packing corn into a box in an unusual manner. Colbert responded in full deadpan with his own zinger: “I was a corn packer. I know that term is offensive to some people, because corn packer is a derogatory term for a gay Iowan.”

Colbert did take an earnest turn at the end of the hearing. When Chu asked him why he was interested in migrant farm workers above other issues, he said immigrant workers were seen, particularly during a recession, as “the least of our brothers.” While he “didn’t want to take any of their hardship away from them,” Colbert concluded, breaking character, that “migrant workers suffer, and have no rights.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.