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Stephen Colbert comes face to face with angry conservatives

By Dana Milbank


Stephen Colbert plays an angry conservative man on television. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) plays one every moment of his life. On Friday morning, they met in the hearing room of the House Judiciary Committee. The result was kind of funny.

Colbert had been called to testify about one of his pet issues, the plight of migrant farm workers. King's pet issue is also migrant farm workers, but he wants to get rid of them and replace them with "everyday American workers."

"Maybe we should be spending less time watching Comedy Central and more time considering all the real jobs that are out there, ones that require real hard labor," King said bitterly. He invoked the "Joe the Plumbers of the world who, many days, would prefer the aroma of fresh dirt to that of the sewage from American elitists who disparage them even as they flush."

There were groans in the committee room.

Colbert, in character, delivered his opening statement. "This is America! I don't want a tomato picked by a Mexican! I want it picked by an American, then sliced by Guatemalan, and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian."

King glowered.

When it was King's turn to question the witness, he said he had watched a YouTube video that purported to show Colbert packing corn while working on a farm for a day. "When I watched, you unpacked corn," the congressman alleged. "You don't do that out there on the cornfield."

"Were you implying that I was not actually doing the work I was depicted as doing?" the comedian replied.

"I thought it was curious," King repeated, "that on the farm where you harvest the corn I was watching you actually unload a crate rather than load a crate."

Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) yielded time to Colbert to respond to the allegation. "Mr. Colbert, which direction was the corn going in?"

Colbert appeared to get serious. "I was packing corn. I was a cornpacker," he insisted. "I know that term is offensive to some people because cornpacker is a derogatory term for a gay Iowan."

Most everybody laughed, except for King. "I definitely will reclaim my time," Gonzalez said.

By Dana Milbank  | September 24, 2010; 1:43 PM ET
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Next: Stephen Colbert testimony: a mockery, but of whom?

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