Comedian Stephen Colbert testifies on Capitol Hill as expert witness
The line between newsreader and newsmaker seems to be getting finer and on September 24 on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, it was unclear which was which.
Stephen Colbert, who hosts “The Colbert Report” on the Comedy Central network in the United States, was invited to speak as an expert witness at a House immigration subcommittee hearing titled "Protecting America's Harvest.”
In character, Colbert mocked the slow pace of Congress in getting anything done and stayed in character as he testified.
“I think there are way too many undocumented Mexican workers in the United States,” Colbert said. “It’s time to roll up our sleeves and face this issue mano a whatever the Spanish word for mano is.”
The Colbert Report is a parody of fox news conservative talk show, The O’Reilly Factor, hosted by Bill O’Reilly. As part of his show, Colbert took part in the United Farm Workers' Take Our Jobs campaign, which offers legal residents and US citizens jobs as farm laborers working alongside the other farm workers, most of whom are undocumented.
The program is designed in part to show how few Americans would actually do the jobs they say illegal immigrants are taking from them.
Arturo Rodriguez, the president of the United Farm Workers said so far, the point has been made in a dramatic way.
“Since June 24, we received 8,600 inquiries through our website, www.takeourjobs.org, but only seven people have accepted those jobs on a full time basis,” said Rodriguez.
As far as what to do about this problem, Colbert said it’s simple.
“The obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables. And if you look at the recent obesity statistics you’ll see that many Americans have already started,” he stated.
Members of the committee said they were shocked at the star power of Stephen Colbert. They say they haven’t seen this much media attention since the impeachment hearings of President Bill Clinton.
It is a trend that’s here to stay: media stars drawing media attention for religious and political purposes. At Glen Beck’s Restoring Honor rally, tens of thousands came out in support.
In response, on October 30, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show will hold “The Rally to Restore Sanity” alongside Colbert, who is calling his, “The Rally to Keep Fear Alive.”
In America, it is a clear sign of change, that the power of politicians to instill change may be diminishing in the shadows of TV personalities who use their fame to influence everything from religion to immigration to religion.
Columnist Brent Budowsky from The Hill in Washington, DC said Colbert’s star power is telling, since he was on The Hill to speak about agriculture and migrant workers; a topic that rarely receives media attention.
“He did a great service to migrant workers. He made the point that people come from all over the world that people come from all over the world to immigrate to the United States in search of a better life, but when they get here they don’t always get the best treatment,” said Budowsky.
He explained further that this is bigger than Colbert’s and Stewart vs. politicians. It is, in fact, also Colbert’s and Stewart vs. the established media, which as loosing audience share while Colbert’s and Stewart gain it.
Budowsky explained that Glenn Beck appeals to the conservatives and is a unique phenomenon for cable news, he is not the normal personal of the Fox network. While Colbert and Stewart appeal to the younger generations who do not want to watch cable news and politicians giving the same repeated, old spin.
“Cable networks are down,” he said.
Colbert helped the cause of migrant workers, even making a mockery of congress in the process, argued Budowsky.
“Congress sometimes deserves to be made a mockery of. But nobody would be talking about migrant workers if Steven Colbert wasn’t there,” he said”
Colbert brought up issues regarding migrant workers that would never have received media or congressional attention before. What Colbert did was bring attention to issues no one talks about on the Hill.
“Sometimes it takes a comic to tell the truth that the serious people won’t tell you,” said Budowsky.