Late night host Jimmy Fallon has opened up about the now-infamous interview with Donald Trump where he tousled the then-presidentail candidate’s hair.
Two weeks out from the US presidential election, Fallon invited Trump onto his program. While it had been a terrible news day for the Republican nominee (he refused to say whether President Obama was born in the United States), the Tonight Show host failed to ask him any hard-hitting questions.
The social media storm was immediate and brutal, with Fallon unable to check Twitter in the days following the interview thanks to the barrage of abuse.
Speaking to The New York Times, Fallon has finally addressed the controversy – arguing the skit was designed to humiliate the then presidential candidate instead of humanising him.
“They have a right to be mad,” he said, speaking about his fans. “If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.”
However, the comedian – who rose to fame on Saturday Night Live – also defended his actions, arguing the skit was designed to infantalise the fiery businessman.
“I didn’t do it to humanise him,” he said. “I almost did it to minimise him. I didn’t think that would be a compliment: ‘He did the thing that we all wanted to do.’ It all started going crazy.”
Fallon said he regrets not addressing the controversy on-air (his belief now is that he “should have talked about it”). However, he remains adamant the criticism won’t change how he conducts his show in the future.
While rival late night hosts have enjoyed a shot in the arm thanks to their barrage of Trump takedowns, Fallon, it seems, won’t be dragged to the left any time soon. The comedian has decided to stay on the straight and narrow, even if it means his ratings continue to slide.
“I don’t want to be bullied into not being me, and not doing what I think is funny,” he said. “Just because some people bash me on Twitter, it’s not going to change my humour or my show. It’s not The Jimmy Fallon Show. It’s The Tonight Show.”
However, whether Fallon wants to or not, something on the program may need to change.
At the end of 2016 he was the head of the pack when it came to late night ratings. Since then, Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show regularly eclipses him – clawing back what used to be a 1 million audience gap.