Coffman’s Multicultural Discovery: “Wow, Ethiopians!”

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Hilarity from the Aurora Sentinel today in response to Coffman's "discovery."

QUID HAS HEARD that Aurora’s own congressman Mike Coffman discovered Aurora’s large Ethiopian, Ghanaian, Eritrean, Sudanese and every other African countries’ immigrant population right here in Aurora and he’s eager to spread the good news. In a story written by the Associated Press, Coffman said he visited an Ethiopian church this year (or as we call it, “a church”) in Aurora to celebrate our diversity. Never mind, that he “didn’t understand any of what they were doing … “ according to a recorded conversation posted on the Internet. Hats off to Coffman for making the rounds in his district. Only took him 3 years and a bitter re-election fight to find out Aurora has tens of thousands of African immigrants. Or as his challenger Andrew Romanoff likes to call them, “voters.” [Pols emphasis]

—–

Then the big drums came out, Coffman said.

“Then the big drums came out,” Coffman said.

​A brief aside in an AP story by local reporter Nick Riccardi on the subject of immigration reform and embattled Rep. Mike Coffman earlier this month became much more relevant to us today, as we'll explain:

Coffman was elected in 2008 to succeed immigration firebrand Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo. Coffman endorsed Tancredo in the 2010 governor’s race, which he lost, and initially backed measures such as barring U.S. citizenship to children whose parents were in the country without legal permission. Coffman also supported allowing English-only ballots in districts with large immigrant populations.

But his district was redrawn to include immigrant-heavy Aurora. After seeing fast-growing Hispanic and Asian populations overwhelmingly back Democrats in 2012, Coffman embraced citizenship for people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. He announced his new position in Spanish…

In addition to studying Spanish, Coffman has also spent time in his district’s numerous other immigrant communities. Last month he visited an Ethiopian church. [Pols emphasis] But he says he does not support an immigration bill passed by the Senate and prefers more steps to ensure the border is secure before granting legal status.

We've spent a lot of time discussing Coffman's shifting (some might say shifty) views on immigration reform as he attempts to hold his newly competitive seat in Congress. But for today, let's talk about Coffman's visit last month to an Ethiopian Christian church in Aurora. The Denver metro area, with high concentrations in Aurora, has a large community of expatriates from Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea. One Denver Post story last year pegged the size of the Ethiopian/Eritrean immigrant community in the Denver metro area at 30,000 people.

Coffman is evidently very proud of having visited this Ethiopian church, having told the AP's Riccardi the story as evidence of his having "spent time in his district’s numerous other immigrant communities." But based on this clip of unscripted audio of the same Mike Coffman talking about the same visit to the same Ethiopian church, we have to wonder how illuminating his visit really was.

MIKE COFFMAN: But the, uh, I didn't know there was a large Ethiopian population. [Pols emphasis] I…

WOMAN: And Somali, and Nigerian…

COFFMAN: And Nigerian and Somali! But the, uh, so it was great to go to an Ethiopian church. I didn't understand any of what they were doing… [Pols emphasis]

CROWD: (Laughter)

COFFMAN: But it was a great trip, what was exciting about it is, it started out pretty Western, in terms of the music and everything, and then as it got going, as it got going, then the big drums came out, and the horns came out…

WOMAN: (Laughter)

So, uh, this was a church service that Coffman attended? Can you imagine the outcry if a politician from any other culture were to attend an American church and said, "I didn't understand any of what they were doing," and cracked jokes about the music? But perhaps worse, Coffman has been the representative of this district for several years now. Did he really just now discover there is a large Ethiopian population in Aurora?

We assume Coffman didn't intend for these remarks to ever see the light of day, since they make him look like a culturally insensitive idiot. But coming from the guy who once famously said President Barack Obama "is just not an American," maybe lame xenophobic humor is the closest to cultural bridge-building Coffman can manage.

54 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. bullshit!bullshit! says:

    Mike Coffman, cultural ambassador.

    Was he trying to win those Ethiopian American votes? So much for that.

  2. n3bn3b says:

    Who the hell cares? I'm sure the Ethopians were just glad to see their representative. Stop trying to stir up racial tension, Demos. It's not going to work this time.

  3. yameniyeyameniye says:

    Sounds like he would not know a couple of the best Ethiopian restaurants in the US (not exagerating) are in Aurora.  And, he probably does not even know their religions.  Smart politicians have their literature translated into Amheric.

    I suppose the next surprise for Coffman will be leaning that H-Mart is not K-mart misspelled.  And there are Russians in Aurora too.

    • bullshit!bullshit! says:

      I love Ethiopian cuisine, and it's a blessing that Denver and Aurora have so many great Ethiopian restaurants to choose from. I acquired the taste for Ethiopian food in DC, which is home to the nation's largest Ethiopian community (I bet Coffman doesn't know that either).

  4. Diogenesdemar says:

    Hey Mike, so now maybe you could tell us all, what's the difference between an Ethiopian and a Kenyan?

  5. BlueCat says:

    Not surprising to CD6 voters that he has no idea who his constituents are and it's not if lots of Aurora wasn't in his district before redistricting either.  Although even if that were the case you'd think he'd have tried to learn something about areas newly part of CD6 since then. He's never been big on constituent service and he's never been keen on venturing out of his white Republican bubble. That's why his supposed Town Halls, the few he's had, aren't Town Halls at all and ony constituents who share his views are welcome. He doesn't want to hear any differing views. He may now be making token appearances at gatherings of various minority communities, some he obviously only just now heard of, but just as token PR. He's not interested in listening to concerns other than those of conservative Republicans.

    But perhaps worse, Coffman has been the representative of this district for several years now. Did he really just now discover there is a large Ethiopian population in Aurora? - See more at: http://coloradopols.com/#sthash.ZdJLnsT5.dpuf

  6. DawnPatrol says:

    Hey, Mikey's best friend is Black — Charlie Black!

  7. BlueCat says:

    Let's try this: Hey I finally went to a Catholic Church and at first there was lots of stuff in the mass that was just like a Jewish Sabbath service but then they started with all this stuff I didn't understand about drinking God's blood and eating God's flesh. Oh yeah and what's with all the incense, ha ha … pretty funny.

    Think I'm an insensitive idiot yet? 

  8. ModeratusModeratus says:

    Slow news day, Pols? This is a pretty lame attack. I just saw Team Coffman's response:

    Silly season is upon us, folks. Today a liberal blog attacks Mike Coffman for not understanding Amheric. What a xenophobe! #COpolitics

    — Team Coffman (@TeamCoffman2014) March 18, 2014

    How many of you speak Amheric? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  9. CaninesCanines says:

    Here's what I know how to do (from time to time): fact-check.

    It's "Amharic."

  10. hawkeye says:

    Coffman's visit to an Ethiopian church will make little or no difference in the Nov election. He'd be better off taking a crash course in Spanish and then participate in the upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

  11. vertigo700 says:

    Of course Coffman and the Republicans are trying to brush aside Coffman's being completely out of touch with his district, but he really, really is. According to http://www.census.gov/fastfacts/, Coffman's district has the most immigrants (population born in another country) than any other in the state with more than 15 percent of the population of CD-6 being immigrants…even higher than Denver's CD-1 district. And I supsect that CD-6 also has the highest number of "birthright citizens," meaning people born in the United States to immigrant families.

    How does this match the fact that Coffman has co-sponosred a bill that would do away with bithright citizenship (http://www.ontheissues.org/house/Mike_Coffman_Immigration.htm), in essence denying citizenship to a significant portion of his own constituency? How does this match Coffman's virulent anti-immigrant stance that has only very recently "softened," if really at all? Coffman's politics simply do not match the reality of his constinuency, which is probably the most diverse in the state. He is barely now realizing this diversity despite representing this district for three years? I really hope that the thousands of citizens in the district that Coffman would disenfranchise come out and vote this Novemeber and show that they do not want to be represented by someone who is against their and their families very existence in this country.

  12. Axum T says:

    As an Ethiopian American living in Coffman's district, I already planned on not voting for him to stay in office but listening to his comments about my community makes not voting for him even easier. How do you not know the demographics of your district?! I also got the sense that he does not respect my culture, so goodbye Coffman.

Leave a Reply

Comment from your Facebook account


You may comment with your Colorado Pols account above (click here to register), or via Facebook below.