Meanwhile, in the headline to the relevant excerpt from his autobiographical book, Salon inaccurately quotes Questlove as blaming his victim, Rep. Michele Bachmann, for the fact that his uncivil, cowardly and disrespectful stunt nearly got him fired. Score one unethical headline for Salon. Questlove blames himself. He obviously feels no remorse for being unfair and disrespectful to Bachmann, but he doesn’t blame her.
I wrote about the incident when it occurred:
“When Rep. Michele Bachmann came on Fallon’s show this week, the band played Fishbone’s “Lyin’ Ass Bitch.” Foul. In ethical terms, this is the equivalent of the band standing up and shouting insults at Bachmann on camera, except that it’s more cowardly. Bachmann didn’t know that she was being insulted, and it was a sure bet that she wouldn’t: I doubt anyone expects Fishbone to be on Michele’s playlist. Kimmel’s band was proud of itself; Roots drummer Questlove alerted his followers on Twitter before the ambush, tweeting:
“Aight late night walkon song devotees: you love it when we snark: this next one takes the cake. ask around cause i aint tweeting title.”
Both conservatives and feminists slammed the show. I presume that fair progressives were also capable of recognizing what was wrong with what the Roots did as well. On orders from the network and the show’s producers, Fallon and Questlove issued apologies; Questlove’s, we now know, was a sham. As he describes the unfolding of the firestorm following his stunt, he just miscalculated, brought bad publicity to the show, and almost was fired. Questlove’s conclusion from the incident? “In retrospect, I would have chosen Sam Cooke’s “What a Wonderful World,” with its ‘Don’t know much about history’ line,” he says. That’s right—rather than send the coded message that she’s a lying ass bitch, send a more accessible code that she’s an idiot. That’s Questlove’s idea of a fair and professional way to treat a guest on Fallon’s show that he happens not to like.
As anyone who reads Ethics Alarms knows, I don’t like Bachmann either, and for approximately the same reasons Questlove doesn’t. It matters not. She was his boss’s guest, she accepted the show’s invitation, helping the show draw viewers, and justifiably presuming the invitation was in good faith. Inviting a guest and attacking her is unfair, disrespectful, and vile. There’s no defense for it, ever. If Fallon wanted to joke about Bachmann’s various historical gaffes, presumably she was prepared for that. Playing a musical theme as she walked on set, however, that suggested she was ignorant would be like hitting her in the face with a pie. Is it better than playing a song she wouldn’t recognize that calls her a “Lyin’ Ass Bitch”? I suppose that a direct insult is better than one the audience gets but the victim doesn’t; I suppose it may be less insulting to be called a fool than a lying bitch. So what? The fact is that Jimmy Fallon has, and soon the famous “Tonight Show” will have, a band leader who is prepared to ambush guests he doesn’t like with musical insults, and sees nothing wrong with that as long as he isn’t fired for it.
Does Fallon? If he does, then Questlove should be fired, as he should have been after the Bachmann incident occurred. He can’t be trusted. If Fallon doesn’t see anything wrong with an unapologetic and arrogant boor who thinks its his place to attack guests from the sidelines, then he can’t be trusted either.
Pointer: Scott Jacobs
Graphic: After Ellen