Bruce Under Fire For 'Illiterate Peasants' Remark

Lawmaker Booted From Speaker's Podium

Lawmakers in the state are trying to determine what kind of action will be taken against Republican Rep. Douglas Bruce after he was ordered to leave the podium of the Colorado House of Representatives for saying that Colorado doesn't need "5,000 more illiterate peasants."

Bruce made the comment Monday during a debate on a bill that would allow the state to help immigrant workers get temporary visas from the federal government.

Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, who was chairing the floor debate, ordered Bruce to leave the speaker's podium after saying, "How dare you?"

Bruce denied later he was referring directly to people from Mexico.

"I bet you my job against yours I didn't use the word Hispanic. I didn't say Spanish-speaking, I didn't say Latin American," Bruce said.

When asked who he was describing Bruce answered, "The bill doesn't specify, but I think we all know where they're coming from."

"I was surprised to hear the comments made by Rep. Bruce," said the consul general of Mexico in Denver, Eduardo Arnal. "I found them not only unfortunate, but offensive. I believe these types of comments do not contribute to the discussion on immigration between Mexico and the United States nor in the search of solutions regarding this topic."

While arguing about the bill, Bruce said, "I would like to have the opportunity to state at the microphone why I don't think we need 5,000 more illiterate peasants in Colorado."

His outburst drew an audible gasp from the House. Curry, a Democrat, interrupted him and said he was no longer recognized to speak.

"Nobody has said the statement I made was not true," Bruce said in his office. "I didn't attack anyone's ethnicity, heritage or intelligence."

Bruce said the remark was not meant to be racial or offensive, but a pointed criticism of the bill.

"That's not a slur. The people who are coming -- they're not quitting their jobs as doctors, lawyers and engineers to come over here and pick potatoes," Bruce said. "I looked up 'illiterate' in the dictionary and it means somebody who is lacking in formal education or is unable to read and write ... I looked up the word 'peasant.' The word 'peasant' means a person who works in agricultural fields."

"These people, most of them, don't speak English. Most of them haven't had any formal education, that's why they're coming over here. I don't blame them for trying, but I don't think we should pave the way for more aliens to come here," he said.

Bruce also received criticism from his own party. House Minority Leader Mike May called the statement "inappropriate."

"It's not good for Colorado to speak in those terms. He's free to do it, and we're free to say, 'It's not OK,'" May told 7NEWS.

May said legislative leaders were trying to determine what action to take against Bruce. Rep. Terrance Carroll, a Democrat, said the remark could result in a formal ethics complaint that would require a hearing and possible suspension, censure or expulsion.

The bill is designed to ease a shortage of farm workers in Colorado and won initial passage.

The Republican from Colorado Springs has had other run-ins since arriving at the Capitol in January as a midterm appointee to fill a vacancy.

He became the first Colorado lawmaker censured by the House after he kicked a newspaper photographer for taking his picture during a prayer.

Republicans later removed him from the powerful State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee because he refused to co-sponsor a resolution honoring military veterans. Bruce said he believed resolutions were a waste of time because they have no legal impact.

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