Colbert Testifies On Ag Jobs Bill: ‘Like Most Members Of Congress, I Haven’t Read It’ (VIDEOS)

September 24, 2010 8:32 a.m.

There was a lot of hand-wringing over Stephen Colbert’s testimony before Congress today, and now that it’s over, can we safely say the Republic is not coming to an end? Colbert himself also had high hopes for another outcome: “I trust that following my testimony both sides will work together on this issue in the best interest of the American people. As you always do.”

[TPM SLIDESHOW: The Whole Truthiness: Stephen Colbert Testifies On Capitol Hill]Colbert was testifying on behalf of the United Farm Workers Union, which is pushing an agriculture jobs bill to give illegal immigrant farm workers a path to citizenship. The UFW started a program called “Take Our Jobs,” with the goal of drawing attention to the large immigrant population that comprises America’s farming work force. Primarily, the UFW argues, this is because Americans don’t want those types of jobs, and the program is a tongue-in-cheek way of drawing attention to this. Colbert is one of 16 people to take up the UFW’s offer for Americans to literally “take the jobs” of immigrants.

Colbert’s prepared statement, which can be read here, “was considerably different from the one that he presented,” as Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) pointed out. Though his written statement was played straight, his actual testimony was in character based on his “vast experience spending one day as a migrant farm worker.”

Colbert said: “We all know there is a long tradition of great nations importing foreign workers to do their farm work. After all, it was the ancient Israelites who built the first food pyramids.”

But, he continued, “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, and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian.”

“I have to say,” Colbert said, “and I do mean this sincerely. Please don’t make me do this again. It is really really hard.” He continued: “You have to spend all day bending over. It turns out, and I did not know this, most soil is at ground level. If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we make the earth waist-high?”

“Why isn’t the government doing anything?” he asked. “Maybe this ag jobs bill will help. I don’t know. Like most members of Congress, I haven’t read it.”

Colbert concluded his statement: “I trust that following my testimony, both sides will work together on this issue in the best interest of the American people. As you always do.”

Here’s the video of his opening statement:

Later, Colbert was questioned by some of the Committee members. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) asked him how many of the migrant workers that day were illegal vs. legal immigrants. Colbert replied: “I didn’t ask them for their papers, though I had a strong urge to.”

Smith also asked if “one day working in the field make[s] you an expert witness?” Said Colbert: “One day studying anything makes me expert.” When Smith shot back that farm work was probably more work than he’s ever done before, Colbert quipped: “It’s certainly harder work than this.”

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told Colbert that he’d watched the YouTube video of his day at the farm, and he found it curious that Colbert was unloading crates of corn rather than loading them. “I only presume they must have run the film backwards,” King said.

Colbert explained that he “was packing corn. I was a corn-packer,” adding that, “I know that term is offensive, to some people, because corn-packer is a derogatory term for a gay Iowan.”

But when Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) asked Colbert why he picked this cause, he became more earnest:

I like talking about people who don’t have any power. 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 we ask them to leave. That seems like an interesting contradiction to me.

Here’s some of the questioning:

And here’s part one of Colbert’s day on the farm, from The Colbert Report:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Fallback Position – Migrant Worker – Zoe Lofgren
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

Part two:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Fallback Position – Migrant Worker Pt. 2
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News
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