Comedian Stephen Colbert is sure to draw plenty of media attention Friday morning when he testifies before a House Judiciary subcommittee about immigrant farm workers. But at least one Democrat on the committee is not happy about the prospect of treating the Comedy Central host as a policy expert.
“I don’t think he should be here. It commercializes the committee,” Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.) said.
Colbert plans to testify about his role in a United Farm Workers campaign called “Take Our Jobs,” an effort that invites U.S. citizens and legal residents to replace undocumented immigrant field laborers. The goal of the campaign is to build momentum for passing legislation that would give undocumented farm workers the right to earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture.
The comedian spent a day in August working on a New York farm to highlight how demanding the work is; he will feature the experience on his show, “The Colbert Report,” on Thursday night.
Cohen, who emphasized that he is “a big fan” of Colbert and has even been on his show, said that unless the comedian intends to testify about issues related to acting or television, he should not appear before a Congressional panel.
“Picking vegetables for 10 hours doesn’t make him worthy of testifying before a committee,” the Tennessee Democrat said.
Cohen said he has “great respect” for Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who invited Colbert to testify before her panel, the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law. “But I don’t know why” she sought out Colbert, he added.
A GOP Judiciary Committee staffer said the panel’s ranking member, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), is not commenting on the matter until Friday’s hearing. But the aide emphasized that Colbert is not a Republican witness.
“Ms. Lofgren is the one who invited Mr. Colbert. She is the one who should answer questions about whether it is appropriate to have him in attendance,” the staffer said.
A spokeswoman for the committee did not immediately return a request for comment.