History can be hard, even for a Congresswoman.
That's the message many late-night television viewers came away with Tuesday night after watching an interview on Comedy Central's satirical news show "The Colbert Report" in which a New York representative stumbled through basic American history.
During Stephen Colbert's "Better Know A District" segment, the comedian-cum-political commentator interviewed U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, who represents New York's 11th District. The results were both humorous and painfully awkward, as the Democratic politician took a hypothetical trip back in time with Colbert, only to claim slavery would still have existed in New York in 1898.
"If you could get in a time machine and go back to 1898, what would you say to those Brooklynites?" Colbert asked in the segment.
"I would say to them, 'Set me free,'" Clarke responded.
Gamely pressing on, Colbert inquired from what would the Congresswoman wish to be free from. "Slavery," Clarke replied.
"Slavery. Really? I didn’t realize there was slavery in Brooklyn in 1898," Colbert said, perhaps in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to give the native Brooklyner a do-over.
"I’m pretty sure there was," Clarke responded.
"It sounds like a horrible part of the United States that kept slavery going until 1898," Colbert commented, struggling to keep a straight face.
"Who would be enslaving you in 1898 in New York?" Colbert pressed. According to Clarke, none other than the Dutch.
As most American school children know, slavery was abolished in the U.S. by the 13th Amendment, which was passed in 1865 after the end of the Civil War. While the Dutch did help settle the region in the 17th century, America was an independent nation by the turn of the 19th century.
Clarke assumed office in the House of Representatives back in 2007 and has previously served as chair of the United States House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science and Technology, according to her bio.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had previously warned colleagues not to appear on the comedian's show, The Hill blog reports. "I wouldn’t recommend that anyone go on the show,” Pelosi said back in 2006. “I would think that it would be OK to go on if you were live-to-tape, but don’t subject yourself to a comic’s edit unless you want to be made a fool of.”
Pelosi later relented, however, agreeing to appear in Colbert's "Better Know A District" series in February in order to promote her DISCLOSE Act legislation.