It was good, fun political theater when Stephen Colbert, almost entirely in character, testified before Congress last week as an “expert” on migrant farm workers. For background, here’s a quick summary of Colbert’s sojourn from the Los Angeles Times:
Friday’s subcommittee meeting was a through-the-looking-glass moment for Colbert. The two-hour hearing resembled a surreal version of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” if Mr. Smith were a comedian playing a bombastic TV commentator fielding thorny questions about immigration reform from members of Congress.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), 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 “The Colbert Report” earlier this 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.”
Indeed, other than raising attention (hopefully for the farm workers), I have no idea what Colbert’s appearance was intended to do. And during the testimony it’s difficult to tell who is being more self-indulgent: Colbert or the congressional committee’s members.
The Washington Post’s BlogPost shared a transcript of the opening statement of Colbert’s testimony. Unfortunately, that omits what I found to be the most interesting part—in fact, what made Colbert’s appearance before Congress more than just a humorous moment for this blog.
It was the moment in his testimony when Colbert broke character, in responding to a question from Rep. Judy Chu, D-CA, and he quoted Matthew 25 in explaining why he cares about the plight of migrant workers:
“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. ... That is an interesting contradiction to me. And, you know, whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers, and these seem like the least of our brothers—right now. ... Migrant workers suffer and have not rights.”
Who knew that Colbert was a Catholic who occasionally teaches Sunday school and, apparently, knows his Bible.
Kudos to LAT’s Matea Gold for not ignoring the biblical reference like the Washington Post did. That video clip is after the jump.