Billboard magazine asked if the Mr. Richards character in the song is a politician. Frontman Michael Stipe replied: "'Mr. Richards' is definitely a political figure. It's about injustices and one of those great injustices - and you'll find plenty of examples of it in the current U.S. administration - is people that get away with something that is almost inhuman. Rather than that being shameful, they wear it like a badge of honor. The fact that they did something so corrupt and actually got away with it, rather than just dropping it into the bottom drawer of their desk, it's like, 'I'm even more Teflon than you think I am.' Like, 'Look at what I can do.'"