Jimmy Fallon had Donald Trump on The Tonight Show last week, and instead of skewering the tiny-handed candidate, the host mussed the serially-bankrupt tycoon’s absurd hair, making him seem more like a harmless grandpa than the dangerous orange blob he is. Mostly lost in the ensuing outrage was the small protest put on by The Roots, The Tonight Show’s in-house band.
As Trump walked on stage, the band played Erykah Badu’s “20 Feet Tall,” a reference to Trump’s terrifyingly stupid plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s not exactly a walk-out, or even the most scathing song they could’ve performed, but it at least sent a message—however subtle—that not everyone on the show was comfortable with Trump’s appearance.
The Roots also took a light jab at Trump’s former buddy and current foe, Hillary Clinton, during her Tonight Show appearance last night. As the former Secretary of State walked on stage, the band played Ghostface Killah’s “Mighty Healthy,” a clear nod to Clinton’s recent bout with pneumonia.
Even if you’re generous, neither song choice can really be seen as powerful statement against either candidate. But that’s not necessarily the band’s fault, considering what happened the last time they skewered a politician.
In 2011, then-congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. The Roots welcomed her with Fishbone’s “Lyin’ Ass Bitch,” which didn’t exactly sit well with the bigwigs at NBC. As punishment, band leader Questlove has since been forced to clear each walk-on song with three NBC executives before each show.
So, perhaps The Roots wanted to play a different song for Trump—or maybe Badu was their first choice. We may never know the truth. There is a lot about this campaign season that will likely remain mysterious for years to come.