One of the most awkward exchanges you will ever see, inside or outside the Capitol

Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.), who less than a month ago was elected to succeed Rep. Trey Radel (can't place the name?), hasn't yet had much of a chance to make a name for himself ... until Thursday, when he used his turn at the microphone during a House hearing to speak glowingly about India to two witnesses who he apparently believed were from that country. They were not. Both are U.S. officials, and had been introduced as such.

Start with the video, which was first spotted by Foreign Policy. "I am familiar with your country," he begins and ... well, watch. If you can stomach this without cringing, kudos.

On two separate occasions during a subcommittee hearing on U.S.-India relations, newly elected Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.) appears to think U.S. officials are representatives of the Indian government. (House Committee on Foreign Affairs)

The worst moment, as you certainly noticed, is the smile that Clawson offers at the 0:41 mark, immediately after saying this:

Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I'd like our capital to be welcome there. I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?

It's a smile that he certainly intended as encouraging, but acts instead as a horrifying exclamation point. Here, we GIF'd it.


The two witnesses, who handled the moment with tremendous grace (though some in the audience appeared to be a bit horrified), were Nisha Biswal, Assistant Secretary in the State Department's Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and Arun Kumar, who holds multiple senior titles with the Department of Commerce. They appeared at the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific to discuss the new prime minister of India. If you are curious, as we were: Only about one-tenth of one percent of Clawson's constituents are of Indian descent.

After Biswal explained that she shared his sentiments, Clawson quickly realized his mistake and tried to recover. It didn't work.

Foreign Policy sought comment from Clawson's office but did not get a response.

Correction: This post originally said the hearing was discussing the president of India. It was the prime minister.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.
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Philip Bump · July 25