Earlier on Friday, President Trump tweeted out a meme that juxtaposes his recent State of the Union address with sad-looking reaction shots of lawmakers including Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Kamala Harris, over a soundtrack of R.E.M.’s 1993 hit “Everybody Hurts.”
The use of R.E.M.’s music was presumably very much unauthorized, and in a statement, the band made their feelings quite clear: “World Leader PRETEND!!! Congress, Media–ghost this faker!!! Love, R.E.M.”
World Leader PRETEND!!! Congress, Media–ghost this faker!!! Love, R.E.M.
— R.E.M. HQ (@remhq) February 15, 2019
R.E.M. were one of rock’s biggest and best bands in the years between 1980, when they formed in Athens, Georgia, and 2011, when they amicably parted ways. Their commitment to progressive politics was well-known. The line “World Leader Pretend” is a reference to their 1988 song of that name, which includes the lyric, “I raised the wall and I will be the one to knock it down.”
This isn’t R.E.M.’s first brush with the president. In the fall of 2015, frontman Michael Stipe chastised Trump and other politicians for using “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” at rallies: “Go fuck yourselves, the lot of you — you sad, attention-grabbing, power-hungry little men. Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign.”