LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - During a heated exchange in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday in regard to the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler) appeared to get flustered and said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had questioned his integrity and "cast aspersions on my asparagus."
Friday afternoon, Gohmert gave an explanation for his bizarre remark.
"The expression 'casting aspersions on my asparagus' is something I found to be helpful in defusing heated exchanges during my days as a litigator, sometimes even bringing a smile from a frown at the thought of something so unexpected as asparagus during such an exchange," Gohmert said in an e-mail statement. "It has actually been amusing to see the national and international speculation as to what people think may have been the secret meaning."
Earlier in the exchange, Gohmert grilled Holder about the FBI's follow-up on a lead from Russia intelligence operatives that said Boston Bombing suspect was a potential terrorist threat. He asked if the FBI agents were allowed to ask about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's "favorite iman" or about the mosque he was attending in Cambridge and Boston.
Holder replied that he was hesitant to go into any detail because that information was part of an ongoing investigation.
"It's also in trying to determine how the FBI blew the opportunity to save people's lives by accepting the Russian information and following up on it," Gohmert replied.
Gohmert said the information being purged from FBI documents has been classified.
"I'm aware of what has been purged in the efforts to avoid offending anyone who is Islamic," Gohmert. "I'm not concerned about offending anybody that wants to blow us up, but I am concerned about religious freedom, which is another topic with the IRS."
The congressman asked if the FBI was aware that the founder of the mosque in Cambridge is currently serving a 23-year prison term for a terrorist plot. Gohmert also asserted that the FBI did not do a thorough job investigating the tip from Russia because of "political correctness."
"My answer to the question is that the FBI was thorough, but there were problems not of the FBI's making," Holder said.
At one point, Holder said because the details of the ongoing investigation have not been released, Gohmert has no way of knowing what the FBI did or did not do.
"You don't know what the FBI did," Holder said. "You don't know what the FBI's interaction was with the Russians. You don't know what questions were put to the Russians, whether those questions were responded to. You simply do not know that. And you have characterized the FBI as being not thorough, or taken exception to my characterization of them as being thorough. I know what the FBI did. You cannot know what I know. That is all."
After his time ran out, Gohmert argued a "point of personal privilege" and seemed to take Holder to task for a perceived jab at the congressman's integrity.
"But the attorney failed to answer my questions about what was asked," Gohmert said. Then he and Holder tried to talk over each other for a moment before the congressman added, " … and he cast aspersions on my asperagus."
That portion of the video has been making the rounds on social media and among comedians like Stephen Colbert, the host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." Colbert satirized the Gohmert-Holder brouhaha in Thursday night's episode of his show.
The comedian said President Obama has been in "full damage control" mode in regard to the ongoing scandals about the Benghazi attacks, the IRS targeting the Tea Party and other conservative groups, and the Department of Justice's decision to seize months of phone records from AP reporters. He added Obama sent "Attorney General and congressional piñata Eric Holder into the sarlacc pit of Congressional Hill" Wednesday to answer to the Judiciary Committee.
"Now Holder desperately sparred with the great minds on the Judiciary Committee, but then he bit off more than he could chew when he ran up against congressman and magical talking cantaloupe Louie Gohmert's questions about the FBI's investigation into the Boston bombers," Colbert said.
Then Colbert played a portion of the exchange between Gohmert and Holder, before he had some alliterative fun with the Texas congressman's flub.
"How dare you cast aspersions on that man's asparagus!" Colbert said. "What is next, sir? Libeling his lettuce? Questioning his quinoa? Arguing with his arugula? Repudiating his rutabaga? Vilifying his vinaigrette before drizzling it on his scandal salad?"
Colbert said America is going to need hearings on "Asparagus-gate "because the more I digest this, the worse it smells."