When guests come on screen on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show, The Roots always greet them with walk-on music that's often subtle and usually witty. For Larry King, it was Roger Miller's "King of the Road," for Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian it was Meatloaf's "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad."
Depending on your point of view, on Monday night, the Philadelphia band led by drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson either cleverly outdid itself or overstepped the bounds of acceptable taste while making their political beliefs all too plain in a way that's sure to be making their employers at NBC deeply uncomfortable.
Minnesota congresswoman and Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann was the guest, and when she walked out to be meet Fallon, the wordless, unquiet music played by ?uestlove was a song by the great West Coast ska-punk band Fishbone called "Lyin' A-- Bitch."
The initial reaction from Roots watchers was laudatory - ?uesto retweeted one follower who wrote "@questlove huge ups to the fishbone tune for Bachman on jimmy tonight. perfect entry song for her!" Today, though, the mood hasn't been so sanguine. Fallon tweeted "@Questlove is grounded" and later "I'm honored that @MicheleBachmann was on our show and I'm sorry about the intro mess. i really hope she comes back."
Meantime, demands for an apology from the band, who release their new album Undun on Dec. 6, started adding up. Democratic New York Congresswoman Rep. Nita Lowey said in a statement: "I do not share Michele Bachmann's politics, but she deserves to be treated with respect. No female politician - and no woman - should be subjected to sexist and offensive innuendo like she was last night." And PBS' Gwen Ifill tweeted "You know what? The Roots and Jimmy Fallon should apologize. Really, @questlove, you're better than that."
By Tuesday evening, that apology had materialized, with ?uestlove, who has a picture of himself with President Obama on his twitter feed, saying in a statement: “The performance was a tongue-in-cheek and spur of the moment decision. The show was not aware of it and I feel bad if her feelings were hurt. That was not my intention.”
We'll see if there's any elaboration on tonight's show, which was taped earlier this evening, before Bachmann participated in yet another Republican debate, in Washington, D.C. A clip of the Bachmann walk on, via Politico, is below. Fishbone's original "Lyin' A-- Bitch" is here.
UPDATE: No mention of the Bachmann brouhaha on Fallon on Tuesday night. The grounded ?uestlove was behind his kit as usual, backing musical guest B.o.B. and hyping Undun in an absurdist Shout Outs segment that also included Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter hawking "Mexico meets the Mayflower" turkey tacos. First guest Howie Mandel was greeted by "This is Howie Mandel" music, adapted from Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It."
UPDATE #2: Bachman was interviewed on the Fox News Channel's show America's Newsroom on Wednesday morning, and when she was asked if she was aware of the Fishbone song being played, she had this to say:
“I wasn’t aware of it at all. I didn’t find out until later yesterday and at that point I was traveling and making my way to the presidential debate. I am hoping to be able to speak to Jimmy Fallon today. I don’t have anything against Jimmy Fallon, I love him, he’s a kick, it was a great opportunity to be on the show, I’d love to go back again. But I think the point is, if that had been Michelle Obama who had come out on the stage, and if that song had been played for Michelle Obama, I have no doubt that NBC would have apologized to her and likely they could have fired the drummer, at least suspended him, none of that happened from NBC and this is clearly a form of bias on the part of the Hollywood entertainment elite but it’s also I think it’s sexism as well. This wouldn’t be tolerated if this was Michelle Obama; it shouldn’t be tolerated if it’s a conservative woman either.”