Colbert testimony to House subcommittee on immigration not a complete joke

Stephen Colbert spent most of Friday’s congressional hearing on immigration mocking Congress and cracking jokes about “corn packing,” but Colbert did break character at least once and, if only for a moment, revealed a serious side rarely seen by the public.

When asked by California Democratic Rep. Judy Chu why he chose to speak on the topic of migrant workers, Colbert appeared to soften up and briefly lost his television character’s trademarked swagger.

“Mr. Colbert, you could work on so many issues,” Chu said. “Why are you interested in this issue?”

Colbert looked up at the ceiling and after a long pause (Colbert usually fires back almost before interviewers can finish their questions), the comedian responded in what seemed to be all seriousness, “I, I, I like talking about people who don’t have any power. And this seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work, but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here, and at the same time ask them to leave.”

He even channeled his Catholic faith, paraphrasing a passage from The New Testament about caring for those in poverty.

“You know, ‘whatever you do for the least of my brothers,’ and these seem like the least of my brothers right now,” he said, qualifying that in a tough a economy, he understood that many are facing hardship. “Migrant workers suffer and have no rights.”

Not a crack of laughter in the room.

The purpose of bringing Colbert to Washington was to raise awareness about migrant labor, and Colbert arguably made that happen. What would have been a relatively uncovered and routine Friday morning hearing became a media sensation.

“I certainly hope that my star power can bump this hearing all the way to C-SPAN 1,” Colbert exclaimed during his opening remarks. (The channel had relegated the hearing to C-SPAN 3.)

By 6:30 AM, people hoping to get a seat in the small hearing room had lined up in the hallways of the Rayburn House office building, and most of the people who came had to sit in an overflow room. Media outlets like Inside Edition, a crew that rarely sees the inside of a congressional hearing room, were on hand as well.

Star power or not, the meeting that became known as “the Colbert Hearing” was not universally well received.

“He mocked the hearing process,” said Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, ranking member of the subcommittee after the meeting. “I think it was his intent to do that.”

One member of the subcommittee, Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, flew home before the hearing, calling it a “skit” and a “joke.”

“He is the best fake newscaster, so if Dems want a fake hearing, I guess he is the right guy,” Chaffetz wrote on Twitter.

Perhaps sensing that Colbert would embarrass Democrats, Judicial Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers asked Colbert to leave the hearing room before he could speak a word into his microphone. (His request was overruled, and he later redacted it.)

Whether it was partially serious or just a bad joke, Republicans who deride Democrats for bringing Colbert to Washington may not want to use the incident as a talking point on the campaign trail. It was Republicans, as Chu pointed out during the hearing, who brought in Elmo the Sesame Street Muppet to testify in 2002.

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  • daveg000

    A funny thing happened to me recently on a Southwest flight. They were going into the usual dog and pony show, about seatbelts, emergency exits, etc, that the huge majority air travellers ignore.

    The stewardesses’ first statement contained a joke, that caught my attention. She caught my attention, she caught everyone’s attention.

    Through that announcement and every other on that flight, there was a spiel worthy of a Las Vegas showroom entertainer. The whole cabin listened intently and burst out in laughter over and over. But they heard and understood every message.

    How often does that happen?

    They naysayers are used to using fear and hate to grab attention.

    I much prefer to hear comedy/satire PUNCHING a point home, as it did in Colbert’s powerful presentation!!

    Whether they agree with him or not, people listened and that is the important thing.

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  • loudog

    The process deserves to be mocked because it’s been a joke for decades. Neither party is interested in controlling our border, Republicans had congress and the Presidency for 4 yrs and did nothing. McCain pushed for amnesty, Reagan granted amnesty. Democrats want their votes, corporations want slave labor. They all lie about wanting to do something while they do nothing. Take troops out of Germany and convert that money to border patrol, increase work visas and enforce them.

    • junkmaninohio

      This is how Pelosi spends our tax dollars. Only Democrats could think of something like this. What a waste. What a shame.

    • jonavark

      Right on Lou.

  • 24AheadDotCom

    If you oppose illegal immig., the DailyCaller isn’t exactly on your side. If they were, instead of supporting Colbert’s bad policy ideas, they’d try to show how those ideas are wrong.

    If you want to know how Colbert is wrong, see my latest post about him:


    I’ve (sadly) written three other posts about what he and the UFW are doing, making the point that their effort is anti-American and pro-abuse. I got almost zero help with that (two other people signed a petition I posted). If I’d gotten help we could have made Colbert look bad and struck back at those who support illegal immig.

  • dollar10E6

    The problem is that we allow people like Colbert, Stewart, Beck et al to formulate our political lives. They are entertainers first and foremost. Congress wanted some publicity. It ain’t Vegas, but the price was right.

  • rockhard

    The Dem Party mock 20 Million unemployed Americans with this stupid liberal circus like stunt.liberals are saying Americans who don’t have jobs are lazy and its their fault.

    illegal’s are working across the country in all sectors not just farms. tens of thousands of American lost good paying construction jobs and other jobs to illegal aliens.the dem wasted $800 Billion dollars and created no jobs and yet if we just enforced our immigration laws we would create hundreds of thousands
    of jobs for Americans without spending a dime, enforce the law…

  • artinflorida

    Has the art of sarcasm been totally lost or just the appreciation of it.
    Colbert’s testimony was a withering indictment of the way migrant workers are treated.


    • theprofessor

      Oh please. Colbert’s “testimony” was as close to sarcasm as my ex-wife’s hair was to blond.

  • StopGovtBondage

    This indeed was a complete waste – once again – of OUR money. The disregard for the people’s money is an outrage.

    It further demonstrates that those in power do not get it – they are out of touch with Middle America. Those responsible for this mockery and reckless spending MUST BE FIRED.

    Remember this when you vote in November – and remember that Pelosi and her gang supported it.

  • fourleafclover

    Liberal scum bags like Colbert have never worked a real job where you had to bust your butt all day to be able to eat and have a roof over your head. To sit there and say Americans don’t want to work is a big lie the liberals keep perpetuating.

    This last winter on a cold snowy day while out walking my dog I had two different pickup trucks with white guys in them stop and ask me if I had any work for them such as trimming trees or grinding stumps. They said they would do any work they could for a paycheck. I didn’t have any work for them but it has been bothering me since. It bothers me that I didn’t go to the bank and give them some money as they said they had families and were desparate. I was stunned by this and I regret not thinking faster before they drove off. I tried to sooth my conscience by donating right away to the Salvation Army which I donate to on a regular basis. These out of work Americans have no power Colbert and you are helping the liberal juggernaut to keep it that way.

    So don’t tell me legal Americans don’t want to work Colbert. You are a liar and you’re not funny. Is this how low America has sunk for elected officials to sit there and listen to this pathetic little man brought there by a pathetic California politician? I wish one man or woman would have stood up and slapped the hell out of Colbert and told him to get out. It’s a sad day in America that we allowed this to happen. People, wake up. Fellow Americans are hurting while illegal immigrants are being coddled by the liberal political machine in power.

    • PolyIndependent

      The liberal “political machine” isn’t the problem – it’s the businesses/people that hire illegals that are the problem. Where there is a demand, there will be a supply. As long as businesses hire illegals, they will find ways to get here.

      • Totzke

        It is the liberal political machine, because were the laws already on the books remotely enforced (that statement in and of itself demonstrates the complete lunacy we find ourselves dealing with) then ‘businesses/people’ would have consequences. It’s so ridiculous I have to laugh that this is even an issue. We have to get our own government to enforce the laws they put in place??? Certainly, I get that they want to come over here, and will continue to as long as there is a way to get paid..if I in that position, I would do the same thing – except if there were consequences that were more painful than staying in my own country…As long as the risk is low, then they’ll keep it up! I fail to see why fellow Americans are not standing by their countrymen in support, but are accused of being lazy and unwilling to do work. It’s a lie and a red herring…. the left doesn’t care about the damage illegals are doing to this country both financially and psychically. Libs purport to be so caring, compassionate and willing to lend a helping hand…except, that is, if you are an American citizen.

      • Momma M

        “The liberal “political machine” isn’t the problem …”

        Thats’ utter BullSh!t

        How many speaches has the President, liberals, democrats and encumbants made to the Hispanic Voting Block? Look at the corruption in Bell California… These people were afraid to speak out BECAUSE of their high-population of illegals…

        When laws go unenforced for political GAIN… THAT IS THE POLITICAL MACHINE!!!!!