To Jimmy Fallon, it was just an innocent late night television moment. To his detractors on the internet, it was a handshake with the devil. We’re talking about then-candidate Donald Trump getting his hair messed up by the Tonight Show‘s Jimmy Fallon back in September of 2016, election year. Now all these months later, Jimmy Fallon is finally talking about it too.
Jimmy Fallon talked to the New York Times’ David Itskoff about that possibly career changing moment among other things in a recent interview. Fallon playfully tussling Trump’s hair and pretending to see if it’s real caused a stir online of people criticizing the late night host so much that he says he quit going online. “I go, I just can’t read Twitter,” Fallon said. “Then I can’t read the news. I can’t read the internet.”
The Tonight Show host has claimed many times that he just wants to have fun on his show and make it fun for both his guests and his audience and he never seeks out controversy. He told the Times that any online criticism just crushes him, “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.”
After months of silence about the Trump criticism, Fallon talked about what he was thinking when he messed up the future President’s hair. “I didn’t do it to humanize him,” adding, “I almost did it to minimize him. I didn’t think that would be a compliment: ‘He did the thing that we all wanted to do.’”
Fallon claims that perhaps his biggest mistake was not addressing the messy-haired elephant in the room. “I didn’t talk about it, and I should have talked about it,” he said. “I regret that.” He thinks he may have missed that opportunity to discuss it even now, saying,“I feel like it’s sailed,” he said. “I haven’t talked about it at all.”
Although it seemed like just a fun moment to Fallon, it may have been the catalyst that led to the current run by the Late Show with Stephen Colbert which is beating the Tonight Show now in certain demographics and gaining in others. These are numbers that Jimmy Fallon claims he pays no attention to, saying, “I never, ever care. I’ll know when someone fires me.”
As much as the online beat down over Trump’s hair took out of Fallon and “devastated” him, he has no intention of changing his comedy or the way he does his show. Fallon says, “I don’t want to be bullied into not being me, and not doing what I think is funny. Just because some people bash me on Twitter, it’s not going to change my humor or my show,” adding “It’s not ‘The Jimmy Fallon Show.’ It’s ‘The Tonight Show.’”
It’s hard to imagine that the man sitting in the most powerful chair in late night can feel like anyone watching his show can bully him. In fact, it seems kind of babyish for Fallon to even suggest it. But for those who thought their cries of foul at his coziness with Trump went unnoticed, they must take some solace in knowing that Jimmy Fallon does pay attention to his trolls.