In an interview with The New York Times, late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon talked about his regrets during the U.S. presidential election, particularly his reaction to a controversial interview with Donald Trump. In that interview, Fallon avoided talking to Trump about the issues of the moment and went for the viral moment of ruffling his legendary hair. In the Times interview, Fallon admitted that he should’ve addressed the criticism following that situation.
In the interview, Fallon also explains his rationale behind the interview: “I didn’t do it to humanize him. I almost did it to minimize him. I didn’t think that would be a compliment.” He also said, “I tossed and turned for a couple of weeks, but I have to make people laugh. People that voted for Trump watch my show as well.” Fallon is known for being the more fun-leaning of the late night talk show hosts, as well as the host who attempts to reach the widest audience. Those desires are reflected in his disclosure that he was deeply hurt about the large scale of negative criticism he received over social media as a result of the Trump interview.
Lorne Michaels, executive producer of The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, also commented that at the time, neither Fallon nor the production team really considered the fact that Trump was a serious candidate. “It had been absolute, bedrock certainty that Hillary Clinton was winning that election,” Michaels said.
Despite the criticism, Fallon feels safe in his position as a late night talk show host for a major television network. While much news has been made by CBS’ The Late Show, hosted by the more political Stephen Colbert, surpassing Fallon’s show in overall viewership, The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon continues to lead all late night shows in the 18-49 demographic, which is historically the most important to networks and advertisers.