The Washington Times - January 21, 2009, 02:32PM

An inaugural ball honoring U.S. military veterans ended in a kerfluffle as several veterans walked out when a musical act’s attempt at humor backfired.


During the Heroes Red, White & Blue Inaugural Ball honoring the nation’s veterans, a vocalist with George Clinton and the P. Funk All-Stars held up a white towel with large block letters saying “[Expletive] GEORGE,” perturbing many audience members who walked out after the display, interpreting it as a jab at the outgoing commander-in-chief, George W. Bush.

A spokeswoman for the ball’s organizers said the sign was inappropriate.

“Obviously we and the Heroes Ball coordinators were unaware that the sign existed and did not support their actions, especially considering our non-partisan mission and treasured military audience,” said ball spokeswoman Carrie Foster.

But a spokesman for the band, the final act to perform, said the sign was intended to poke fun at their leader, who shares the same first name as Bush.

George‘s guys always have always had a thing about the four-letter-word,” said band spokesman Sandy Friedman. “It was directed to George Clinton. There was no last name, it was to George, the leader of the band.”

Friedman said people had been walking out on various acts throughout the evening and that there was no noticeable mass exodus after the sign was unveiled. However, one fellow band member seemed to notice people walking out and quickly ripped the sign down.

The audience at the Warner Theater in downtown D.C. included wounded young veterans wearing slings, walking with canes and nursing other visible wounds. Some 300 military service men and women from Walter Reed Hospital and their families were invited. The sweat-pants and bandana sporting members of the funk band were in sharp contrast with the sparkling ball gowns, tuxedos and sharp military uniforms.

The towel incident was a hiccup in an otherwise smooth and glamorous evening. Guests on hand to thank the veterans included Larry King, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and USO President Elaine Rodgers.

— Carrie Sheffield, Politics 101 blogger