In early January of last year, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon for a goofy interview with softball questions. Viewers expecting a more hard-hitting, cable news-esque round of questioning were enraged, resulting in a national conversation about late night television and its place in the political sphere. Some, like comedian Norm Macdonald, came to Fallon’s defense, but in fewer numbers than those who opposed the infamous hair-tousling exchange.
The former Saturday Night Live cast member briefly addressed the incident at the time, but has since remained mum about it. In a new interview with the New York Times, however, Fallon opens up about the Trump interview and the intense reaction to it, which “devastated” him:
“I go, I just can’t read Twitter,” he said. “Then I can’t read the news. I can’t read the internet.”
Speaking in a quiet, tentative tone, Mr. Fallon seemed to be reliving the experience as he recounted it.
“I’m a people pleaser,” he said. “If there’s one bad thing on Twitter about me, it will make me upset. So, after this happened, I was devastated. I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just trying to have fun.”
In addition to feeling bad about the hate he received, Fallon also thinks he should have addressed the matter on air — something he never did, and now thinks it’s too late to do. “I didn’t talk about it, and I should have talked about it,” he told the Times. “I regret that.”
Mr. Fallon feels he has lost the opportunity to explain himself to disappointed viewers. “I feel like it’s sailed,” he said. “I haven’t talked about it at all.”
Ultimately, Mr. Fallon concluded that his only recourse is to keep doing the show he has been doing. “I tossed and turned for a couple of weeks, but I have to make people laugh,” he said. “People that voted for Trump watch my show as well.”
The larger profile, which you can read in full at the New York Times, paints a rather empathetic portrait of the Tonight Show host. Yet with The Late Show with Stephen Colbert‘s ratings continuously outpacing its NBC counterpart throughout the increasingly problematic Trump presidency, it may be too little, too late.
(Via New York Times)