September 26th, 2010
10:03 AM ET
4 years ago

House leader says Colbert testimony was 'not appropriate'

Washington (CNN) - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said comedian Stephen Colbert embarrassed himself last week when he testified before Congress.

"I think his testimony was not appropriate," Hoyer told FOX News Sunday host Chris Wallace.

Colbert, the popular host of "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central, spoke in character before members of a House judiciary subcommittee Friday to bring attention to the conditions facing undocumented farm workers. Colbert often spoke sarcastically, prompting laughter in the hearing room and drawing Republicans' scorn.

Colbert was invited to testify by the subcommittee chairwoman, California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren.

Hoyer said on FOX that the testimony "was an embarrassment for Colbert more than for the House."

"What he had to say I think was not the way it should have been said," Hoyer said. "If he had a position on the issues he should have given those issues."

Hoyer said this was his "personal opinion." His views differed from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called Colbert's testimony "great."

"He's an American. He comes before the committee. He has a point of view," Pelosi said Friday. "It can bring attention to an important issue like immigration. I think it's great."


Filed under: Steny Hoyer • Stephen Colbert
soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Rick

    I think everyone complaining about this needs to relax a little. It is not uncommon to have a moment of levity during what is otherwise an arduous, unpleasant, strife-ridden workplace. Our congressmen and women got a chance to smile and laugh a little. And I'm sure Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all got a chuckle or two out of it. This session, and the past several, have been stressful and unpleasant for everyone - citizens and lawmakers alike. Take this 5-minute speech for what it was. A chance to lighten up. Something many Americans have forgotten how to do.

    September 26, 2010 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  2. OS

    Where are immigrants treated like slaves? They are not. They work happily. How do I know? My friend is an illegal. The main problem is that they want to become legal so they can become a member of US society and so they don't have to sneak around. Plus they will earn more money (min wage) if they are documented immigrants. They don't have to be deported but they are certainly not enslaved. I guess there are Pollyannas on BOTH sides of the aisle.

    September 26, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  3. Jim

    The Chairwoman was brilliant in inviting him. How much publicity would the Committee – and the issue have received without his appearance? How much of the audience – and Committee – would have slept through whatever professor that would have normally been scheduled? I can't imagine how Colbert has embarrassed himself – he did what he was asked and served his purpose surely beyond the Chairwoman's dream.

    September 26, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  4. Patrick

    Colbert was completely appropriate. The idea that migrant farm workers are ACTUALLY necessary to the American agricultural industry is so basic to reality that it would seem that all American adults would realize the concept... but sadly for the education of numerous American adults this is not the case. Colbert explained that reality to those who lead this large group of under-educated adults very well. He should be commended for his effort.

    September 26, 2010 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  5. Voice of Reason

    Hoyer's got it wrong again. Colbert didn't embarrass himself, Colbert embarrassed the Democrats. Every person in the country knew he would have fun with it, oh wait, except for the democrats in congress. They honestly believed he would give a legitimate testimony. I'm sorry Mr. Hoyer, when it comes down to it, you are just trying to put some spin on a major mistake, expecting a life long comedian to give an honest testimony in congress.

    September 26, 2010 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  6. AngieS

    Remember the old saying..."Just a spoon-full of sugar helps the medicine go down"...? The abuse and practical enslavement of undocumented farm workers is, indeed, a bitter pill for congress to swallow and it sounds as if Hoyer is still choking on it. I think he – and all of them – should just take their medicine and do something to try and cure our country of this ill.

    September 26, 2010 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  7. Darth Cheney

    Someone needs to siphon a little bit of the hot air out of Hoyer before he explodes.

    September 26, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  8. ruth

    He upset fox news AND republicans. Must have been on target and witty.

    September 26, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  9. William McElligott

    His performance was brilliant. Mr. Colbert quite deftly knocked the spots off of celebrities who feel they've become experts on global crises because they're celebrities. To paraphrase an old television commerical: "Thank you for inviting me Mr. Congressman. As you know, I'm not a doctor, but I play one on television."

    Bravo, Mr. Colbert!

    September 26, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  10. Martin

    All the problems this country is currently facing and congress is wasting its time listening to some comedian doing schtick. Nancy Pelosi thinks his testimony was "great. I'm all for comedy. But congress taking time to provide a forum for a comedian is so inappropriate I can't even put it into words. ". Seriously, this is a detachment from reality on the order of Nero fiddling while Rome burned.

    September 26, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  11. Eric of Reseda

    HUGE fan of Colbert. But I must say, I found much of his testimony useless. But that is because his jokes clearly looked better on paper than as script-read-aloud in front of Congress. Don't get me wrong; I thoroughly believe injecting humor was a good choice. But much of the stuff fell flat. He did the same thing at the infamous Press Dinner with Bush. The satire wasn't strong enough to rock the room, and the jokes weren't strong enough to garner adequate laughter. So, it was akin to a stand-up dying on stage. And there's a point where content isn't heard and audience is simply distracted by the collective embarrassment.

    September 26, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  12. steven harnack

    Republicans always have a problem with humor. They don't understand it!

    September 26, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  13. viking

    I watch Colbert & Stewart all the time. I watched the entire hearing & Steven Colbert made an ass out of himself. He was trying to make light of a congressional hearing, he stood out like a red, throbbing, sore thumb & polarized the issue further. Only bringing attention to his "Keep Fear Alive" rally. He did not help at all as far as I could tell & other than being on record his testimony was baseless, devoid of fact, & useless. He is not a labor expert, an immigration expert, or a migrant worker. He spent only hours working on a farm in upstate NY. It's not even really hot in upstate NY in the middle of August. Try your antics on a farm in Phx in mid July. Satire can not be taken as legitimate testimony and although I'm a fan of his, I think this was a poor choice to stay in character, because, for those of you who saw it, right at the very end he broke character, got real & offered some very intelligent, poignant and thought provoking ideas. Too bad he wasn't out of character the whole time, I truly believe it would have benefited everyone more.

    September 26, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  14. Harry

    Speaker Nancy Pelos who called Colbert's testimony "great."! I hope that Borat will be invited next to testify.
    What a circus!

    September 26, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  15. Jim Klimaski

    Satire is not always easy to understand, Steny Hoyer 's comments simply demonstrate that Steve Colbert's comments were well placed.

    September 26, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  16. Pelosi is a see-you-en-tea

    Well it was a big hit with the 18-25yr old crowd....you know...the ones that don't understand anything about politics and have the maturity of a drunken keg party!

    September 26, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  17. chris

    I support DEMS,but ole Steny got it all backwards. Colbert was the only one in the room with the brains to talk about the issue. Anyone think otherwise, go spend a week in the fields and you'll see those are "not jobs Americans want"

    September 26, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  18. Stephen a few miles south of Atlanta

    Hey, atlantaguy: you can't identify illegals "on sight." So how the he!! would you deport them "on sight"? Unless, of course, you think anyone who is Hispanic is automatically here illegally!

    And by the way, the Native Americans of the eastern seaboard were very skilled farmers, and without their assistance the English invaders would have starved to death. Your ignorance of American history is comparable to your ignorance of Constitutional principles.

    September 26, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  19. Funny

    He's a comedian....Did you expect something else?

    September 26, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  20. al5422

    i think colbert was great. to hell with any pompass, arrogant politician who said they don't like it. colbert made them look like the fools that they are and that's why they didn't like it. the very fact that this is a news story and we are still talking about it proves that his testimony with some comedy, was absoulutly successful and has highlighted the plight of these field workers. kudos to you steve.

    September 26, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  21. Adam

    The politicians thought they would bring in a celebrity for PR...Colbert is a comedian, not an expert who should be testifying about anything but comedy. He made fools out of those who invited him to speak, as he should have. He certainly did not embarrass himself, it's what his fans expect of him. I'm glad it blew up in their face...inviting a comedian to testify in congress about something he knows very little of? Who's running that circus?

    September 26, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  22. Stephen a few miles south of Atlanta

    Hey, atlantaguy: you can't identify illegals "on sight." So how would you deport them "on sight"? Unless, of course, you think anyone who is Hispanic is automatically here illegally!

    And by the way, the Native Americans of the eastern seaboard were very skilled farmers, and without their assistance the English invaders would have starved to death. Your ignorance of American history is comparable to your ignorance of Constitutional principles.

    September 26, 2010 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  23. mugvcky@aol.comVickie

    Thank you, Vic of Nash. If Americans do not wake up and apply rationale to their thinking – they are doomed come Nov!!! The catch word 'RESTORE' has never been explained and should be to the entire country by the 20% who are very vocal (Tea Partiers/or 'Baggers' as they originally and aptly called themselves and a lame vehicle of the Repub Party!!)!! Yes – it is out in the open – Listening to Mitch Mcconnell with Amanpour this morning was an enlightenment and at the same time a huuuge dissappointment FOR America if an elected leader of the people can so underrepresent his constituency in that dismal manner!! In the last admin. when the POTUS travelled, shoes were thrown at him in contempt!! When Pres Obama now travels abroad, the entire Continent stands still to listen...and to envy America for having such an Intellectual, Humane and Intelligent guy as their Leader!!! So, think about that the next time you hear 'RESTORE' being touted by Tea Baggers! Restore from what? From being insulted by your own hosts?!!! America!! Wake up and Pay Attention..... Please!!!!!

    September 26, 2010 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  24. Ricky L

    @Josh "I totally agree with Hoyer. Colbert had every right to express his opinion, but he made a bunch of stupid jokes and wasted everyone's time, and *that* was inappropriate."

    Yeah.....normally, Congress spends its time so much more wisely.

    September 26, 2010 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  25. Zeev Rosenzweig

    I thought his testimony was great and to the point. Some must pick vegetables and fruits. Americans are not interested in doing it but still want to eat. What gives?

    September 26, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
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