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Indian American woman mistaken at hearing as a foreigner had been a staffer on same committee

Adding a layer of irony to last week’s embarrassing performance — you know, when a U.S. congressman mistook a non-white U.S. official for a foreigner — the Indian American woman witness once was a staffer on the same committee.

Yes, Nisha Biswal, the assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, was a staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee from 1999 through 2002.

After more than a decade working in U.S. government and policy, Biswal returned last Thursday to the her former employer — the committee appears to have been her first Capitol Hill job — to find that at least one congressman did not bother to read her bio before questioning her at a hearing.

Need a little refresher on Rep. Curt Clawson’s (R-Fla.) cringe-worthy questions? Where he kinda smirks and refers to India’s government as “your government?” Here ya go:

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)

Biswal, who was testifying with Arun Kumar of the Commerce Department about India’s new prime minister, seemed to take it all in stride. She even tweeted about it on Saturday:

To be fair to Clawson, he is new to Congress so it’s not like he would have remembered Biswal from her time on the committee. And it’s not like it came up during the hearing… Oh wait, yes it did.

“Before that, Ms. Biswal served as the majority clerk for the House Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee and as a professional staff for the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where she was responsible for South Asia,” said Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), introducing her.

Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.



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