Jimmy Fallon Did A Good Thing On Monday Night

On Monday night, Jimmy Fallon delivered a passionate monologue at the top of The Tonight Show about the events that happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia and President Trump’s failure to denounce white supremacists for a full 48 hours. Fallon’s speech was unusual for a host of reasons, but foremost is this might be the first time he’s every truly taken a publicly strong political stand on anything (often to his own detriment and we will of course get to that).

Fallon’s speech didn’t seem forced on him. It felt legitimately like something that he wanted to do and he got visibly emotional while delivering it, appearing almost on the brink of tears. (Cynics would argue Fallon was acting. As it turns out, I am also a cynic and I have seen Fallon act before and I’m fairly positive he wouldn’t have the range to pull off this performance.) And he was smart to position this has something he had to do for his two daughters – a father, looking at these monsters in Charlottesville, desperately wanting to protect his own children from that kind of hatred. It didn’t come off as a lecture. It came off as a deeply concerned parent and human being – and a person who is also well aware of his own past mistakes.

Here is his statement in full:

What happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia was just disgusting. I was watching the news like everyone else and you see Nazi flags and torches and white supremacists and I was sick to my stomach. My daughters are in the next room playing and I’m thinking, how can I explain to them there’s so much hatred in this world? They’re two years old and four years old. They don’t know what hate is. They go to the playground and they have friends of all races and backgrounds. They just play and they laugh and they have fun. But as kids grow up, they need people to look up to, to show them what’s right and good. They need parents and teachers and they need leaders who appeal to the best of us.

The fact that it took the President two days to come out and clearly denounce racists and white supremacists is shameful. And I think he finally spoke out because people everywhere stood up and said something. It’s important for everyone, especially white people in this country, to speak out against this. Ignoring it is just as bad as supporting it. Remember, there are people who have given their lives to make sure this kind of hate doesn’t spread; they fought and died on the right side of history. One brave woman in Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, died standing up for what’s right at the age of 32. I can’t look at my beautiful, growing, curious daughters and say nothing when this kind of thing is happening. We all need to stand against what is wrong, acknowledge that racism exists, and stand up for what is right and civil and kind. And to show the next generation that we haven’t forgotten how hard people have fought for human rights. We cannot do this. We can’t go backwards. We can’t go backwards.

I’ve already seen the Twitter groupthink machine lambast Fallon for this, citing the tousling of then candidate Donald Trump’s hair on air last fall. There are a lot of people who will never forgive Fallon for this – and, to be honest, that’s understandable. But the Fallon scorn right now is ill conceived. What Fallon did last night is immensely important and will have positive repercussions and that should be applauded.

Last night, Seth Meyers delivered a blistering opening statement condemning Trump.

With his (almost) nightly “A Closer Look” segments, Meyers has positioned himself (perhaps begrudgingly at first, but certainly “all in” now) as the nightly opposition to Trump. It’s cathartic and Meyers is extremely good at it. But people who “aren’t political” aren’t watching Late Night With Seth Meyers these days. It’s almost impossible to believe, but there are millions of Americans out there who just don’t care about politics and don’t want to hear about politics. And guess what: a lot of those people watch The Tonight Show. Meyers’ comments last night were sharper and much more focused, but what Fallon did will have a greater impact. Fallon’s remarks are going to reach an audience who doesn’t hear things like this very often. And for Fallon to stop giggling and laughing and to look dead serious as he basically tells people that our president is awful will have a lasting impact because everyone knows Fallon doesn’t do stuff like this. When someone drastically and suddenly changes their behavior, yeah, something must really be wrong.

Of course, this is the same reason Fallon doomed himself with the tousling of Trump’s hair before the election. There were a lot of people watching who may not have been paying attention to the venom Trump was spewing and just thought he was a fun orange man with weird hair because “nice guy Jimmy Fallon” seemed to like him. This event has been written about at length. No, it didn’t get Trump elected, but it sure didn’t hurt him either. And, today, it’s pretty obvious Fallon regrets this. And what’s done is done. Fallon isn’t leaving The Tonight Show anytime soon. And he could have said absolutely nothing. Or, maybe even worse, he could have said something half-hearted that looked forced or canned. He could have just said, “hey, gang, racism is bad,” (which is a pretty easy thing to do, even though our president has a hard time doing that) and moved on. But he called out the president specifically as a bad person in front of a lot of people who don’t hear that every day.

A person has every right to not like Fallon, but what Fallon did last night does help. Look, I get it, it’s cool to not like Fallon. But not this time. I think there’s a thought process out there that “no one watches The Tonight Show because no one I know personally watches The Tonight Show.” But the truth is a lot of people watch The Tonight Show and their affable and, yes, sometimes meek host took a stand last night and I promise people paid attention. You don’t have to forgive Fallon for the Trump incident, but Fallon did a very good thing last night.

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.