WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Curt Clawson, a congressman for all of one month, made an embarrassing mistake this week when he confused two Obama administration officials with representatives from India.
At a Thursday hearing of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Clawson talked how much he admired the witnesses’ country.
“I love your country, and I understand the complications of so many languages, and so many cultures and so many histories all rolled up into one,” the Florida Republican said.
It was clear Clawson didn’t realize he was speaking to Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar, two high-level officials at the State Department and Commerce Department, respectively.
It got worse.
“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,” he said at a later point in the hearing. “I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?”
There was a pause.
As Kumar sat with a big grin, Biswal politely responded: “I, I, I think your question is to the Indian government, and we certainly share your sentiments and we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the U.S. government.”
“OK,” Clawson said, smiling. “Let’s see some progress.”
Clawson’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
He was elected last month to fill the seat vacated by Republican Trey Radel, who stepped down earlier this year after getting caught buying cocaine from a federal law enforcement agent.
A former CEO of a global manufacturing company, Clawson joined the Foreign Affairs Committee a couple of weeks ago.
Chairman Ed Royce, R-California, pointed to Clawson’s “fluency in four languages and his time residing in six countries” as some of Clawson’s top-shelf credentials in a press release announcing his new position.
CNN’s Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.