An off-season meeting of the Colorado legislature's Economic Opportunity Poverty Reduction Task Force erupted in "audible gasps" yesterday after Republican state senator Vicki Marble stunned her colleagues by tying the increased rate of poverty among blacks to their penchant for fried chicken and BBQ.

"When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race," Marble told the committee. "Sickle cell is something that comes up. Diabetes is something that is prevalent in the genetic makeup. Although I gotta say, I've never had better BBQ and better chicken and ate better in my life then when you go down south, I mean, I love it. Everybody loves it."

Marble went on to comment that Mexican are "much thinner" than Mexican-Americans because the former eat "fresh vegetables" while the latter "changed their diet" after coming to the States.

"I've read studies on that," she said.

In fact, a recent UN study showed Mexico was the only country in the world fatter than the United States.

Committee member Rep. Rhonda Fields (D) fired back at Marble, calling her remarks "racist."

"I will not engage in a dialog where I am in the company you are using these stereotype references about African Americans and chicken and food," she said. "This is not what this committee is all about. What we are trying to do is come up with meaningful solutions. It’s not about chicken."

Sen. John Kefalas (D), the committee chairman, stepped in and temporarily adjourned the session "so we can all take a deep breath."

Fields was forced to leave to attend a scheduled event, and the issue was not reopened when the committee reconvened later in the day.

In a statement released last night, Marble said her comments "were not meant to be disparaging to any community," and she was "saddened they were taken in that regard." She insisted she took her responsibility seriously and hopes "our work on this committee will offer real solutions to the health and financial challenges of our vulnerable populations."

[screengrab via 9News]