Stephen Colbert is perhaps America’s foremost satirist. He’s certainly the most visible, especially given his four-night per week half-hour show, “The Colbert Report,” on Comedy Central. The faux conservative made an appearance in Washington Friday, CNN reported, before a House committee on migrant farm workers — in character. He wasted no time in getting to the point: In just a few minutes of testimony, Stephen Colbert noted that migrant farmers and immigrants provided a necessary workforce, were not taking jobs Americans would do or would even want, and should be protected by legislation like other American laborers — all by saying the direct opposite.
Even some of the Democrats simply wanted him to go away. John Conyers (D-MI) bluntly asked if he would simply submit his testimony into the Congressional record without reading it. As many in the room gasped, Stephen Colbert leaned into the microphone, said, “No hablo ingles,” and asked Chairperson Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) if he should leave the room. She said she had no objection to his testimony.
Stephen Colbert told the packed committee gathering (many there just to see the comedian give his testimony), “This is America. I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American, then sliced by a Guatemalan, then served by a Venezuelan, in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian.”
The television funnyman begged Congress to not make him go back into the fields, which he had spent an entire day in, stating that he now breaks into a sweat at the sight of a salad bar. But he took exception to the TakeOurJobs.org position that no Americans would do the work of a migrant laborer. He and 16 others had taken the challenge, which was developed by the United Farm Workers and launched in June to disprove the argument that migrant workers and immigrants were taking jobs from Americans. He argued before Congress that the 16 who had responded were proof that Americans would do the work, noting that come November, several members of Congress might want to sign up as well.
“America’s farms are presently far too dependent on immigrant labor to pick our fruits and vegetables,” Colbert intoned, mock serious. “Now, the obvious answer is for us to stop eating fruits and vegetables. And if you look at the recent obesity statistics, many Americans have already started.”
He emphatically noted, “So, we do not want immigrants doing this labor and I agree with Congressman King that we need to secure our borders.” King would later take exception to Colbert’s implication, but his anti-immigration stance is well known and much-lampooned by Colbert on his show.
“Maybe the easier answer is just to have scientists develop vegetables that pick themselves,” he suggested at one point. “The genetic engineers over at Fruit of the Loom have made great strides in human-fruit hybrids.”
He also chided the gathered representatives. “I’m not a fan of the government doing anything. But I’ve got to ask: Why isn’t the government doing anything? Maybe this Add Jobs Bill would help. I don’t know. Like most members of Congress, I haven’t read it.”
But if anyone had any doubts as to what he thought of migrant labor conditions, his allusion to slave labor should have set matters to rest. “I tried to get them to sing field songs and that sort of thing but they didn’t seem to have any.”
Colbert gave his tongue-in-cheek testimony beside United Farm Workers president Arturo Rodriguez. Rodriguez appeared on “The Colbert Report” after the launch of TakeOurJobs.org and Colbert, with full pro-American bluster and swagger, said he would take the challenge. His time with the migrant workers, where he picked beans and packed corn, was filmed for a segment of his show, which aired in two parts prior to the comedian’s testimony. Colbert, whose character is a caricature of a conservative talk show host (a la Bill O’Reilly), yelled “Thank God!” when he was told he didn’t have what it took to be a migrant farm worker. In keeping with the character, he ran over to a large black SUV asking, “Where’s my driver? Pablo. Pablo, let’s go!”
But did he get his message across in Washington or was it lost in the satire and the intransigence of those opposed to his words and intent? Was it a waste of taxpayer money, as “Fox and Friends” co-anchor Gretchen Carlson lamented, even though, as Colbert pointed out on his show the night before, the taxpayers were paying for five minutes of electricity to power up his microphone and all the water he could drink — and nothing else?
A better question might be to ask how many taxpayer dollars are being wasted filling the seat of the representative of Iowa with Steve King…
Stephen Colbert giving his testimony before Congress follows.