Video: Stephen Colbert at “Protecting America’s Harvest”

Dear mainstream media and politicians (I’m looking at you, Rep. Conyers, D-MI): Thanks! You are clearly doing your part to keep fear alive.

Here’s Stephen’s opening statement from the hearing and a few thoughts on the whole three-ring circus (C-SPAN has video of the full hearing posted here).

I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about this whole situation.

1) Stephen participates in the Take Our Jobs campaign, highlighting an issue about agriculture, labor and immigration. He gets some laughs, some insight, and talks to people interested in the issue.

2) Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chairwoman of “Protecting America’s Harvest”, invites Stephen to participate as a witness in a congressional hearing.

3) The media freaks out, positive before Stephen has even spoken that he will make a mockery of immigration, Democrats, Congress, and democracy in general. Many comment disgustedly on what this is costing taxpayers. (Stephen kindly notes that he is paying for his own transportation, food and hotel.) The more mean-spirited imply that Stephen’s motives are selfish and that he’s doing this for publicity. (This blogger extends an all-American, single digit “salute” to them.)

4) The media nonetheless show up in force to the hearing, finally giving the issue some of the attention that it deserves, even if only as a side-effect of wanting to see what Stephen does.

5) The hearing begins, and Rep. King (R-IA) offers an excellent example of an attempt to distract from the issue by flag-waving and implying that the chairwoman is undermining the military. His opening remarks slam people who watch Comedy Central instead of being troops and Joe-the-Plumbers. (Rep. King’s point: protect “REAL Americans, doing REAL jobs” and don’t offer jobs to immigrants.)

6) Rep. Conyers wins himself the “Dick Move of the Week” award for thanking Stephen for coming and filling the room, bringing in more cameras than Rep. Conyers can recall seeing since the impeachment, and “asking” (telling) Stephen to leave. Stephen, quite rightly taken aback, notes that he was invited by the chairwoman and will leave if she asks him to do so. (Rep. Lofgren replies that he can leave if he wishes, but “I think a lot of people are interested to hear what you have to say.”)

7) Stephen testifies (see above). The sky does not fall. Democracy does not perish. A lot of people maybe learn a few things about the arguments for and against immigration reform as related to agricultural labor.

So how do I feel about this situation? In a word, disgusted.

Look, whatever you think about Stephen’s testimony and whether it should or should not have been in character (etc., etc., handwring, etc.), the simple fact as I see it is that Stephen took an interest in an issue that doesn’t get a lot of attention. He was invited to use his celebrity to shine a spotlight on that issue in a congressional hearing, and he did so (without imposing on taxpayers). Whether or not you agree with the idea of entertainers ever speaking out on political issues — and, particularly, in Congress — the reaction across the media and political spectrum has been thoroughly and disproportionately insane.

For that, I can only offer a sarcastic response: “Thank you, media and political figures, for blowing this all out of proportion. Thank you for keeping fear alive.”

(And if any of you feel like you need a “palate cleanser” after that foray into politics, I found that this lessened my hurt a little bit.)

EDITED TO ADD: Since we all keep talking about Stephen’s final exchange with Rep. Judy Chu, here’s the video (thanks, AndiFO)!


  1. Ms Interpreted says:

    I’ll leave this as a comment because I forgot to put it in the post, but I agree with others who said in a related post that the last part of the Q&A with Stephen was perhaps the highlight of the event. If you click on the full C-SPAN link in the post (not the embedded clip, but the full link), the exchange in question comes in at about the two hour mark.

    It’s sincerely lovely.

  2. “Mr Colbert, you could work on so many issues, why are you interested in this issue?”

    “…I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and it 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. And that’s an interesting contradiction to me, and, you know – what’s “whatever you do for the least of my brothers”, and these sem like the least of our brothers right now. A lot of people are “least brothers” right now, because the economy is so hard, and I don’t want to take anyone’s hardship away from them and diminish anything like that, but migrant workers suffer…and have no rights.”

    Matthew 25:40: “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

    This, this right here is why I will always, always love and respect Stephen as a person.

    • Agreed, and thanks so much for transcribing that part, Arrow. I’m not sure what I think about whether humor was effective in communicating his message, but I appreciate that he had a chance to speak so plainly and thoughtfully in the questions. To me, that’s where his advocacy, and his motivations, shine through. This is an important issue, and I’m glad Arturo Rodriguez and Stephen have been able to bring some attention to it. I hope now the media can cover the substance, and not just the spin, for a change.

    • Splendiferous_Zeppelin says:

      This nearly brought me to tears. Stephen is such a gem. Thanks for sharing.

      • AliceInDallas says:

        Still wiping the tears.
        I came home furious after an awful day at work.

        Now, I’m sad because Stephen reminds me that my worst day is better than the migrant worker’s best.

        I’m so proud of my hero.

  3. LOL … He got the biggest laugh with this tongue-firmly-in-cheek comment about believing that the two sides would work together to find a solution that would be best for America. That is telling and “ain’t funny unless it is true” ironic.

    And now we have more KFA Rally Signage, “Salad Bar!!!”

  4. Karenatasha says:

    I haven’t been able to watch his testimony yet, because we really can’t stream video at work, so thank you so much, Ms. Interpreted, for that excellent rundown.

    It sounds to me like Stephen will have plenty of candidates for his next “Alpha Dog of the Week.” Grrrr.

  5. The snark that Stephen is just there to promote his show really burns me up. You may agree or disagree that his testimony is germane to the issue, but it’s cheap and dirty and outright wrong to question his motivations.

    Kudos to Rep. Lofgren for making a point of this at the hearing’s end: “A lot of people don’t realize that the witnesses who come before Congress are volunteers. They come as volunteers to help make a better country.”

    And that’s the Word.

  6. I can’t believe I watched so much C-SPAN this morning, but I actually really enjoyed it to be honest. As a person from an immigrant family myself it makes me proud to to see Stephen speaking on this issue. The part that made me the proudest though was at the end when Re. Judy Chu asked him why he was speaking up about it. There’s video of it here

    Also this is my first time posting, hello everyone!

  7. MaryLovesColbert says:

    Wow, that exchange with Rep. Chu was very good, very respectful, and I loved hearing why Stephen took on this issue. I don’t know how we could love this man any more, I love that he stands up for things like this.

  8. Hmmmm…… a fangirl and lover of TCR, this amused me as, used to the style of rhetoric, I know what Stephen is saying.

    And good on him for stepping up. I live in a country where many migrant workers are living for a month what I can get through in a quick trip to the shops, and yet still manage to send money home to their families – but media reports on their lack of rights and far-below-sub-standard working and living conditions are quietly ‘discouraged’. At least in the US, it’s a subject which is getting attention.

    That said, I haven’t seen the rest of his testimony, but based on this clip I do feel it should have been out of character, as it’s not all it-getters and the Colbert-aware out there. I can easily see how many people would think “Huh? Is this a-hole trying to be funny?” Stephen Colbert is an intelligent man, capable of speaking in his own voice, and I think he could easily have made the points he wanted to make effectively enough with his inate humour, even with reference to his character. As demonstrated at the WHCD’s lack-of-humour fest , “Stephen Colbert” can be a little awkward in the stuffier environment, however much the rest of us might sit there and whoop with delight while applauding his balls of titanium.

    Although, jeeeeez, by the look of it anything which livens up a congressional hearing can’t be a bad thing…

    • To be honest I felt a little awkward watching it at first because I wasn’t sure how people would react to Stephen delivering his testimony in character, but by time he finished with it I felt pretty comfortable that he knew what he was doing and that the people there were aware of it as well, even accepting of it.

      The very end with Rep. Chu sealed the deal for me though because he actually spoke out of character and gave a response based on his actual beliefs. If anything that was the highlight of the hearing more than anything.

    • I take it all back! Just watching last night’s episode and the fact that Stephen appearing at the hearing really p’d off the ever-ghastly Gretchen Carlson makes it all ok in my book. “Her hair nearly moved” – whahaha!

      And AndiFO, thanks for replying. It’s good to know. I didn’t doubt that Stephen knew exactly what he was doing – it’s the rest of ’em I was concerned about!

  9. pkyoubuggin says:

    Great post, Ms I. You crystallized my feelings exactly.
    I am so proud of you Stephen, Rick Sanchez is right, for a change. And it’s not just the tasering talking. You are a true American Hero!

  10. Honestly Stephen and Jon are even more of a threat to the media then they were. The rally that they are holding is turning into a possible threat to the Rep. party, even though that is not the intention of the rallies. So naturally, the media is going to do their best to demonize the two, so that people think of them as horrible, or wasteful people that are “corrupting the youth” or only for stoners. Is it right? No.
    But I think we are to expect a lot more very, very soon.

  11. Mr. Arkadin says:

    CNN’s Dana Bash tracked down Conyers after the hearing & had this exchange:
    Bash-“When you said he should leave, why did you want him to leave?” Conyers-“Well I thought it was going to be a circus, and I wanted to avoid that.”
    Bash-“Was it a circus?”
    Conyers-“No…I thought he was pretty profound.”
    Bash-“You didn’t mind the jokes he made?”
    Conyers- “He was funny.”
    Bash-Did you mind that he gave an opening statement that was quite different from what he prepared?”
    Conyers-“Well, some people do it,nobody’s done it as much as he has.”

    • Thanks for posting this, Mr. Arkadin!

      “No…I thought he was pretty profound.”

      Alright, Rep. Conyers….I almost take back calling you a D-bag. Almost. It is nice to hear someone call Stephen “profound,” though. :)

  12. I just watched his opening comments and a definite, big tip of my hat for what he said and for going along. And you made some excellent points, Ms. I.

    Also, on a shallow note, Stephen looked amazing.

  13. Colbert is our National Treasure

  14. Karenatasha says:

    His rsponse to the congresswoman’s final question about why he has chosen migrant workers as a cause — “I like talking about people who have no power” — is brilliant and completely stunning in its beauty. In these words, he is clearly no longer testifying in character, but as a real person. My admiration for him grows and grows.

    And the laughter when he says that he is sure Democrates and Republicans will work together for the good of the American people is telling. Even the congresspeople recognize they irony of Stephen’s words.

    His grandfather who traveled 4,000 miles for a better life would be so proud.

  15. The one thing that struck me was that I didn’t realize how deaf Colbert was. He really had a hard time hearing in the subcommittee hearing.

    • I didn’t get to see the videos yet, but I think someone mentioned that he was wearing a hearing aid or similar device.

    • I haven’t watched the videos yet, but I believe someone said he was wearing a hearing aid or similar device?

      • I don’t believe he wore any device. If you click on my name, it should take you to a photo of him listening with his functioning ear.

    • MaryLovesColbert says:

      Same here, I was surprised that he kept asking what Rep. Smith was saying. Poor guy.

  16. I was able to catch Stephen’s opening statement up until the hearing was adjourned. Good thing I suddenly decided to log on just so I can update my antivirus software. I found out from this site taht the hearing was already starting so I immediately clicked on the link. I was already sleepy (11 pm!) but for some reason I just couldn’t tear myself away. That was really amazing/funny/interesting.

    “Migrant workers suffer and have no rights.” Well said.

  17. I am really glad Stephen had the opportunity to go to Congress and speak about this issue. I do believe that any intelligent person would see the points he was making while “in character.” So I am fine with his using that approach.
    Satire does have its uses.

    But like everyone I think I was most moved by his final statements:
    “migrant workers suffer…and have no rights.”
    Thank you Stephen for doing this. No one should suffer like that.

  18. It’s days like these that make me especially proud to be a member of the colbert nation.

  19. Oh my God that ending brought me to tears. Right there is the honesty of someone who cares about other human beings, and it’s not just about politics or rhetoric or anything, its just about being decent.

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