Capitol Hill Gives Stephen Colbert the Cold Shoulder

Not everyone thought the comedian's testimony on Capitol Hill was funny.

By Naima Ramos-Chapman Sep 30, 2010

Well, at least there’s one thing that Republicans and Democrats can agree on these days: they both think comedian talk show host Stephen Colbert is a nuisance.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seem particularly unhappy after Colbert’s appearance on Capitol Hill last week, where he testified before the House immigration subcommittee. At the hearing, Colbert made the following joke:

This is America. I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want one picked by an American. Then sliced by a Guatemalan, and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian. Because my great grandfather did not travel across 4,000 miles of the Atlantic ocean to see this country overrun by immigrants. He did it because he killed a man back in Ireland.

But clearly, not everyone was laughing.

"My experience with that show is like herpes. It never goes away, and it itches and sometimes flares up," former aide to Rep. Lynn Westmoreland told Politico, after his boss appeared on the show in 2006. 

Erika Lovely and Marin Cogan point out that Westermoreland, a conservative Georgia Republican who co-sponsored a bill requiring that the Ten Commandments be displayed in Congress, became the subject of laughter on Colbert after appearing on the show and seeming only to be able to name three of the commandments. But the antipathy for Colbert doesn’t stop there.

While serving in the House, President Obama’s soon-to-be former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel once warned his staff against appearing on the show. And Politico notes that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters, "I watch it all the time, and I think, ‘Why would anybody go on there?’"

In 2006, more than 40 segments of "Better Know a District" aired. This year less than 10 have been produced.

Poking fun at politicians seem to have been costly for Colbert, but like Jamilah King noted last week his good humor is surely to be appreciated by at least some in the immigration reform movement.

At least one politician has Colbert’s back. Rep. Bill Pascrell had this to say about politicians who seem quick to put Colbert on their hitlists: "Aw, give me a break, would you please? We’ve got serious problems — come on, look! We took ourselves so seriously, people’s expectations rose, and we couldn’t meet them. ‘Get a life,’ I tell those people."