#awkward: Lawmaker mistakes U.S. officials for representatives of India
July 25th, 2014
06:52 PM ET
4 months ago

#awkward: Lawmaker mistakes U.S. officials for representatives of India

Updated 10:55 a.m. ET, 7/28/2014

(CNN) – Rep. Curt Clawson, a congressman for all of one month, made an embarrassing mistake this week when he confused two Obama administration officials with representatives from India.

At a Thursday hearing of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Clawson talked how much he admired the witnesses' country.

"I love your country, and I understand the complications of so many languages, and so many cultures and so many histories all rolled up into one," the Florida Republican said. Video of the exchange can be seen on the committee's website, at about 1 hour and 36 minutes, and again at 2 hours and 17 minutes.

Foreign Policy was the first to report the story.

"I made a mistake in speaking before being fully briefed and I apologize. I'm a quick study but in this case I shot an air ball," Clawson said in a statement released Friday.

It was clear Clawson didn't realize he was speaking to Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar, two high-level officials at the State Department and Commerce Department, respectively.

It got worse.

"Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I'd like our capital to be welcome there," he said at a later point in the hearing. "I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?"

There was a pause.

As Kumar sat with a big grin, Biswal politely responded: "I, I, I think your question is to the Indian government, and we certainly share your sentiments and we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the U.S. government."

"OK," Clawson said, smiling. "Let's see some progress."

Late Friday night, Biswal tweeted about the incident, calling it an "honest mistake" on the part of Clawson.

"Honest mistake by new Member of Congress -but the strength & beauty of America is its diversity. Proud to represent my country & Prez Obama," she wrote.

He was elected last month to fill the seat vacated by Republican Trey Radel, who stepped down earlier this year after getting caught buying cocaine from a federal law enforcement agent.

A former CEO of a global manufacturing company, Clawson joined the Foreign Affairs Committee a couple of weeks ago.

Chairman Ed Royce, R-California, pointed to Clawson's "fluency in four languages and his time residing in six countries" as some of Clawson's top-shelf credentials in a press release announcing his new position.

CNN's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.


Filed under: Congress
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Bill from GA

    Bessy – "Oh well ! Mistakes happen!"

    Exactly! If this was the worse thing done by Congress, or a Congressman, we would be in great shape.
    Let's all have a good laugh and move on.
    Of course, if a Dem had done it, Issa would be calling for an investigation.

    July 26, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  2. Bill from GA

    Caption for Photo:
    "Is this the way to the bar??"
    (Though he looks like he has already found it! )

    July 26, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  3. yerkiddinright

    The only thing dumber than this clown are the right wing idiots here trying to spin this as a screed against "illegal" immigration. Clawson is a perfect representative of the ignorant racists that make up the Tea Party.

    July 26, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  4. Mr. Balls

    Genius @ work. Great job hiring staff.

    July 26, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Good grief is all I can say.

    July 26, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  6. Longtimer

    Rick McDaniel
    That's understandable. We have allowed our government to use legal immigration to bring into our country, only those from non-white countries. That is changing America, into something unrecognizable, in terms of our country, and its ideology.
    ++++++++++
    Really- you can defend Clawson by claiming all brown people look alike and America should be whites only? Does the term "racist" ring a bell?

    July 26, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  7. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    When you elect a GOP CLOWN to replace ANOTHER GOP CLOWN and coke head you should expect a lot of laughs, it didn't take long, BUT there's an election in November to replace this ignorant republican teaparty FOOL with a democrat!!!!!!!

    July 26, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  8. caeser

    Where did they get this guy,the wizard of Oz?
    If....,I only had a brain.

    July 26, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  9. BoMo the clowns

    Arab spring. What if there is a american spring?

    July 26, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  10. ThinkAgain

    " Well, as the uhbama would say, just another 'typical white person.'

    When ever did President Obama say that? Talk about desperate to find a way to twist this into a criticism of the President!

    July 26, 2014 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  11. John Hinsdale

    What is unclear in the coverage of this is that after his initial "I love your country" gaffe the two officials testified for FORTY MINUTES about their activities in their capacity as officials of the UNITED STATES government and even AFTER all that Clawson is still hammering them on better trade policies from "their" country (India). He wasn't listening to them at all. This is right out of the Three Stooges. Very bad ...

    July 26, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  12. chrissy

    Wow! @ Rick McDaniel, when did you become so racist? That comment was totally unnecessary! And helloooo @ Bigwilliestyles! Have missed you!

    July 26, 2014 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  13. KungFuKool

    Typical clueless racist Florida republican. This isn't a surprise. The only thing surprising is he didn't shoot them.

    July 26, 2014 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  14. guest

    This is so so funny. Thank you Congressman!

    July 27, 2014 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  15. Commenter

    "That's understandable. We have allowed our government to use legal immigration to bring into our country, only those from non-white countries. That is changing America, into something unrecognizable, in terms of our country, and its ideology." – Rick

    Uh...America was never a White country to begin with. You know, the whole Native Americans living here for thousands of years thing? In any case, you are far too primitive and uneducated to know or understand such things. I don't expect for you to understand how valuable the Indian American community, or the Asian American community has been in this country.

    July 27, 2014 03:11 am at 3:11 am |
  16. edale

    "We have met the enemy....and it is us". Why can't we stop digging and start thinking rationally...? 'nuff said!

    July 27, 2014 03:38 am at 3:38 am |
  17. Gurgyl

    –these old idiots do not know world is changing, not caring their color garbage any longer.

    July 27, 2014 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  18. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    Replace this ignorant GOP CLOWN with a DEMOCRAT in November so we don't replace the coke head GOP clown with a GOP IDIOT!!!!

    July 27, 2014 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  19. Marie MD

    Rick McDaniel That's understandable. We have allowed our government to use legal immigration to bring into our country, only those from non-white countries. That is changing America, into something unrecognizable, in terms of our country, and its ideology.
    Not sure what part of the country you are from, but here in the MD/VA/DC area we have people of all colors, creeds, races and countries, The difference between the brown people and white people that until you hear them speak in their native language you don't know they are foreigners.
    That also goes for a LOT of friends and coworkers who speak English far better than born and bred Americans.

    July 27, 2014 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  20. oidschool72

    I live in this FL District that Clawson represents, and unfortunately it is a Republican wasteland. More and more morons like Clawson being elected every year. It's sad. Average active voter in SWFL is white, with money, most retired here from the midwest, to live behind the walls of their gated community.

    July 27, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  21. ron l

    SO WHAT!! This congressman made a mistake. Why is this such a big deal??? SERIOUSLY!!!! Instead of covering these minor events, the latest polls for an election 4 months away, breaking events on the other side of the world, the latest inflammatory statement by some politician that knows the only purpose they said it was to raise money, and so little on keeping America focused on long-term concerns. Currently the House will be going on vacation in a month. This is the same House that tore into the President over the POOR TREATMENT of our veterans. GUESS WHAT??? Two or three months have passed and they have CHANGED NOTHING!!! The SENATE passed a bipartisan bill to get things going in the right direction and the HOUSE has done nothing but TALK. I blame the News Media and the American public for the short attention span. Most of you are hypocrites when you say you support our troops, what you support is you have a bunch of Americans willing to die for you so you can read about war instead of experience it like other parts of the world. It is SICKENING and many of you in the news media should be ashamed for not FORCING Americans to pay attention to this until it is corrected. The VA is a MESS and the wounded and injured deserve much better treatment.

    July 27, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  22. g

    swamp water kills brain cells

    July 27, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  23. Steve, New York City

    Wow – that was quite funny. I don't know anything about this Florida rep, but these comments certainly don't help the GOP.

    This comment sort of plays into the far-right handbook - "here is my [insert race here] friend" - they're pro-life, yet they support the death penalty, the gun rights of the criminally insane are FAR more important than general public safety, even if this concerns little children, there's no science behind global warming, math and science are over-rated (get back to hunting, fishing, Duck Dynasty, speaking in tongues and bible study with Sarah Palin) - AND while there are plenty of legitimate reasons to be annoyed with Obama (I share some of them), the far right's hatred of him has NOTHING to do with his race???? . . . . yeah right!

    July 27, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  24. chrissy

    Lol @ Steve, New York City....YOU ROCK!! Some very good points and same goes to @ ron l, its disgraceful that we have HOMELESS VETERANS in this country! And such a large number even! That should NEVER happen!

    July 27, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  25. carol baltzell

    Republicans trying to pretend to be smart when everyone know they are dumb as a box of rocks. Why was this guy talking when he didn't know who he was talking to

    July 27, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
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