Jimmy Fallon Gets Trumped by Donald Trump

Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon Donald
Courtesy of NBC

If Jimmy Fallon had any credibility left as a thinking comedian with a point-of-view, he lost the last shred of it last night. Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared on “The Tonight Show” for a few minutes to talk up his campaign, in the midst of one of the mendacious and evasive 24-hour periods of his political career to date.

This morning, Trump ended a slimy two-day news cycle by finally admitting that President Barack Obama was born in the United States — but in the process, re-stoked the controversy, waffled on the topic, and manipulated media coverage to focus on the opening of his new hotel (just hours after he gloated that that same press pool was stranded on the tarmac and therefore couldn’t come to his rally).

During this particularly maddening news cycle, Trump stopped by “The Tonight Show” to tape last night’s episode. And Fallon — either unaware or indifferent to the racist overtones of Trump’s birtherism or the “reveal” of his medical records on “Dr. Oz” — chose to fawn all over the candidate. In the episode’s metaphorical money shot, Fallon asked Trump if he could muss his orange coiffure. In an acquiescence that felt rehearsed, Trump let him have at it. Trump’s combover deflated in long, cotton-candy-like wisps. As Fallon stood to bid him farewell, the candidate nervously patted it back into place.

If Trump becomes president, that image of Fallon ruffling Trump’s hair will be the moment when the tide turned. The gesture was so affectionate and grandfatherly that Fallon provided Trump with a seal of mainstream approval that he does not deserve.

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To be fair, while Trump is a nationalist demagogue, Fallon’s desire to present Trump as part of a multifaceted array of guests with similarly broad appeal is understandable. “The Tonight Show” is a long-running mainstay for the American audience, and with the best ratings in late-night, it’s found some way to continue to be a something-for-everyone program. Fallon’s lineup last night was almost an amusing collection of demographic plays — Norm MacDonald, the notoriously dry Generation X comedian, Kiiara, a 21-year-old dance-pop singer from Chicago on the verge of major breakout, and 70-year-old baby boomer Trump.

But bringing together disparate representations of a viewing audience works best when you give them something to unite under. That’s a principle that applies to both television and politics. So while Fallon brought together some very different people in his studio yesterday, the worlds each represented remained siloed off from each other. Fallon, who should have been the unifying presence, was just a blank slate; a mirror that is quick to collapse into giggles.

It’s unfortunate that Fallon does not seem to think that there might be something about Donald Trump that deserves more attention than simply tousling his hair and making fun of his speech patterns. Of course, the late-night host is not the only member of the media to be bizarrely undone by Trump’s publicity blitz; the candidate so skews the palette of what we consider acceptable that journalists of all stripes find it hard to keep up. But Fallon had what a lot of journalists, comedians, and just average citizens don’t last night, and that is access. Forget even the argument of journalistic responsibility or political ethics, though those are fair critiques — Fallon could have, as it is his job, made fun of his easily mockable guest. But the closest Fallon got to discomfiting Trump was when he asked something about Russian President Vladmir Putin, and as soon as he did, Fallon walked it back, in what read as a fear of offending the candidate. This was followed up, a few questions later, with: “Have you ever played the board game Sorry?”

Seth Meyers, whose show directly follows his on NBC, has taken quite a different tack to political humor. As he told the Atlantic earlier this year, comedians aren’t journalists, and that means they get to have a point of view and run with it. Following Trump’s many press bans, Meyers cheekily banned Trump from his own show. Last night, after Trump whiffed through Fallon, Meyers had on Senator Bernie Sanders, and the two had an intimate conversation about personal activism in a world dominated by major political powers — a reminder of just how fantastic a medium for conversation late-night television can be.

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It’s also worth pointing out that while a common misconception posits that the Federal Communications Commission’s “equal-time” rule dating back to 1934 for political candidates applies to late-night television, the FCC typically interprets broadcast late-night TV as if it is a news show, and therefore, does not require equal-time from it. (“Saturday Night Live,” a scripted show, did fall under that rule, which was relevant last year when Trump hosted the variety show.)

Which is to say that clearly, based on both the FCC and his own network colleague’s actions, Fallon is not required to pretend as if Donald Trump is a normal candidate for president. He is choosing to, and that is where the true disappointment of last night’s interview arises. Fallon has never been a particularly incisive questioner, but allowing Trump to get away with 15 minutes of national airtime as fuzzy as a stuffed animal leads the rest of us to wonder: Who wouldn’t Fallon interview with such fawning, giggly acceptance? Where would he draw the line? And if, as is possible for this people-pleasing comedian, there is no such person he’d say no to, no situation in which he’d draw the line — then how long will it take before American audiences lose all their faith in him, as an honest person they can watch every night?

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  1. frances thelen says:

    Jimmy Fallon Shame on you. You were always our favorite late show host. When My friends and I watch you now you are losing your credibility. Pay attention to your ratings. You know why? How dare you constantly slam our President. Talk about a snowflake..We now no longer watch your show..We never did watch the other late night show yours was the best. You have dropped to a very low person just to keep the leftist happy..That is the opinion of many many of us. Get back toyour regular monolog and back our PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES….. Frances fromClearwater

  2. Raymond James says:

    you are such a worthless writer

  3. It was disgusting how Fallon fawned and gushed over Trump like he had a man crush on him. But what can we expect with a talk show host that acts as if he is in middle school? He doesn’t deserve to have the roots, he’s just a man-baby. It’s extremely hard to remember that he actually used to host SNL’s Weekend Update and lob insults at the guests he now grovels over. What happened to THAT guy, the one who was genuinely funny?

  4. Allan Falk says:

    holy crap………media is pure left wing propaganda……jimmy is the only late night host who is not completely brainwashed , and then he get blasted for not attacking the president enough , amazing

  5. Charles says:

    So Fallon is expected to toe the typical left coast line and be rude and insulting to those who don’t merit your ideals-have you checked the name of your organization lately? Leno and hosts before would poke fun at both parties, it kind of unified the country in humor if just for a few minutes every night. That was before Obama’s WH read them the riot act. You tykes may be too young to remember.

  6. Kevin Spaeth says:

    Hey media, Its time to stop ruining your carers attempting to brain wash and deceive Real Americans. Bring integrity back into journalism, Do you understand the world sees through you and is disgusted with it all? Do something really great, Switch it up and help us rebuild this Nation, be heroes, its the only way to improve your ratings and redeem yourselves from the jester status you have made yourselves.

  7. Bwells says:

    Reading this in 2017 is like finding a little fossil of hate hidden among the rubble of the mainstream.

  8. Hugh McGrath says:

    My god, it’s the Late Show! A variety show! You Leftwing columnists are so up the crack with your underwear over Trump that you’re blacklisting a late night variety show and blaming Fallon for electing president Trump! Didn’t hear this whining when 60 was shedding its skin for President Obama, over and over. And It might serve the last shrewd of journalism fiber you have left if you’d save the anxious polling fall-off for Hillary’s self created messes

  9. Jeanne La Rose says:

    I don’t look to Jimmy Fallon for my political stand. He is a comedian, and a damn good one. I applaud his ability to balance the wide array of personalities he has to deal with as a host – and that’s what he is: a host. He doesn’t need to (and shouldn’t!) take a political stand (if he doesn’t want to). I watch his show for entertainment. I watch other shows (and networks) for political stands.

  10. cowcharge says:

    You expect that lightweight to engage in anything that requires deep thought? As for Trump’s appearance having some noticeable effect on the election, LOL.

  11. Kay says:

    Hillary must be a very weak candidate if her supporters are pouting over comedians not “getting” Trump.

  12. I just see a twerp doing what twerps do, acting twerpy.

  13. David G. Cannon, Ph.D. says:

    Gee Sonia,
    Thanks for letting us know how stupid we are and inept Fallon was. What would we do without know-it -alls like you to tell us how to think. You are utterly and disgustingly “full of it.”

  14. Disgusted says:

    Again – a completely biased viewpoint from a liberal who assumes anyone who disagrees with her political philosophy is deplorable. This American woman and business owner has had it up to my neck with progressives holier than thou snot nosed put down of any one with a different point of view. I was not a Trump fan as I do not consider him a conservative but his punking of the media is hilarious and now my vote will go to him – just to spite the left!

  15. Shrinky says:

    I’m not the first to say it but the liberal bias in this article is unnerving. You talk about responsibility in journalism, you completely missed the point of your own virtues. What Jimmy Fallon did that night was no different than his other interviews with Donald Trump. Those interviews were during times when he called Mexicans rapists. You fail to see how Jimmy Fallon is making fun of Donald Trump while at the same time respecting his guests the same way Johnny Carson or other late night hosts like Steven Colbert do. Those talk show hosts would inform the audience not to boo their guest because they are their guest (even though Steven Colbert is very publicly a liberal).

    What you’re asking Jimmy Fallon to do is to do something NO REAL INTERVIEWER has done, which is to simply insult their guest in front of their face. Have you ever watched an interview before? Why would you expect a Tonight Show host to suddenly change character and bully their interviewee? I mean OK, maybe Chevy Chase would do it, but I digress.

    So while I agree Donald Trump should not be treated with such affection, given his comments on racial/religious issues, I do not expect interviewers to suddenly become obnoxious opinionated attackers. That’s what Bill O’riley does. The point of interviewing is to get to know more about the person, not forcing a viewpoint. I don’t like Donald Trump, but I’m defending Jimmy Fallon, who’s not even my favorite talk show host. So take a step back and analyze what you’re watching. It’s not like you would have done what you’re asking him to do. And if you really mean it, I dare you to publicly insult Donald Trump in his face in front of an audience in a formal setting. Do exactly what you wanted Fallon to do.

  16. bob says:

    What is amazing to me in this article is how the liberal or progressive viewpoint can be so blind to their own bias and disrespect for another human. Trump has been ruthlessly attacked by the media to turn people’s view of him into this person that doesn’t exist. But people who buy into that don’t seem to realize the media could do this to anyone they choose. Its a distracted world and repeating the same narrative over and over works for a lot of people whether its truth or not. But Trump is better at the media game mostly because he has a personality that many real people like. No not racists and uneducated, just regular people. Not the types who are so full of themselves that they need to tell us how to think and what is appropriate. Its more about being real and genuine. What was the crowd’s reaction to Trump? They loved him b/c he was not speaking like a politician. Hillary knows how to tell us what we should think and so do the media pundits. I love how trump just speaks for all of us regular people in telling them that life is too short to be politically correct. Jimmy Fallon was decent and respectful and he showed that he could still be entertaining.
    Regular people don’t care about the birther stuff, its not significant. Its just more interesting to see how Trump drew the media in and stuck it to them. Progressive politicians are more likely to be liars. Progressive people I can give some respect to b/c they have some honorable beliefs. But critical thinking does not seem to be something they do well. I’m supposed to accept this label nationalist demogogue, as it that’s a fact? Do you give any thought to who may want a borderless world? Who wants unfair trade for the US? Trump is a smart guy who wants to go after the obvious flaws in our status quot government. The media unfairly paints him as a hitler type because they are the establishment trump wants to overturn. Whether he can or not is a whole other question but I can’t wait to watch him try b/c I am sick of corruption and the very system that the clintons represent.

    • Orcasite says:

      Perfect Trumpian projection. COngrats.

      • bob says:

        Is that like being deplorable? I hear most of us are so deplorable that we don’t even know we are? Wish I was smarter because then I’d know how to fix my deplorable self and stop doing that trumpian projection thing. I really hate it when I do things like that!
        But thankyou for trying. There’s not much you can really do to help people like me.

  17. Ron Bass says:

    Your article was very interested because it revealed what you and the left are all about.Why should Variety take a political position. i am not interested in your political positions or who you will vote for in November. There were two respectable performances last night Fallon and Trump. And you follow this up with another pitiful lefty spin.

  18. David Carroll says:

    Another example of Hollywood’s double standard. Add Fallon to the Matt Laurel “traitor” list. Right? When Hillary appeared on Kimmel to open a pickle jar to “prove” her great health there was no media backlash. Pathetic.

  19. April S. Loof says:

    I think everyone missed the point of this article. It was a PARODY! The author was pretending to be writing for the Brown Univeristy Daily Herald and wrote it in that college sophomore style full entitled indignation. Well done! Everyone fell for it! Once I realized this, I couldn’t stop laughing.

  20. NEITHER20016 says:

    “If Trump becomes president, that image of Fallon ruffling Trump’s hair will be the moment when the tide turned.”

    “Fallon could have, as it is his job, made fun of his easily mockable guest.”

    How stupid is this writer?

  21. LiberalNutjob says:

    This column is completely fair, biased and not an abomination at all. (eye wink)

  22. Becky says:

    Jimmy Fallon as well as the other late night hosts are supposed to be entertainers, not journalists. There are umpteen news channels available to get your personal political fix 24/7. Constant in-your-face one-sided political opinions are the very reason I quit watching Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers. I don’t watch late night shows to be constantly irritated by hosts on their soapbox (it’s the same reason I gave up on David Letterman.) You can bet when Hillary Clinton is on Fallon next week he won’t be grilling her with deep questions either. And that is how it should be. Viewers need a break from that. I’m surprised Variety would have such tunnel vision and open bias and if it continues, will be the next thing I drop.

  23. InspectorClouseu says:

    The author of this actually gets paid to write?? All you’ve done is confirm how liberals cry and rant about not getting their way. See genius,majority of people don’t desire to have a sick,corrupt,career lier in office. Only morons,sheep and other criminals do. We don’t care if a candidate has any hair at all as long as he or she is LESS of a risk to our country. Hillary already proved she’s not to be trusted and frankly she’d already be in jail if not for the corrupt scum protecting her. Got it?

    • Martin Pal says:

      Your comment would be slightly droll if you weren’t also in favor of a sick, corrupt, career liar, so you can join the line of morons, sheep and other criminals on your side of the cesspool. Got it?

  24. Mike Mohamed says:

    Stupid articles like this are the reason why no one takes this company seriously, and also the reason why Donald Trump will be President. You people try so desperately to demonize this man, all you’ve succeeded in doing is making people 10x more curious as to who he really is. The end result is the moronic media pundits, like yourself, Sonia, have done absolutely nothing but succeed in winning Donald Trump millions of new voters and made his supporters even more loyal to him.

    When you’re watching the inauguration ceremony, I want you to remember something: “Thank you.” We couldn’t have done it without you.

  25. Victor says:

    This is the stupidest, most biased thing I’ve seen on internet this week. If Fallon supports Trump is because he believes he can do better than Clinton. If you don’t agree, at least show respect.

    This is how the press loses its credibility.

  26. Bobby says:

    What a stupid one-sided uneducated hateful beatup article.

  27. datdudemurphy says:

    Thank you for pointing this out.

    I make all my political decisions based on late night talk show appearances.
    Now that I know Jimmy Fallon mussed Trump’s hair, Trump is getting my vote!

    • Jacob says:

      EXACTLY! I am a liberal progressive who was going to reluctantly vote for Hillary, BUT now that Jimmy Fallon rustled his hair, obviously I HAVE to vote for a racist demagogue!!!!! LMFAO College Humor did a great video making fun of liberal sites like these and nitpicking articles E.X.A.C.T.L.Y. like this! Seriously, it’s hilairous (and kind of creepy) how this is precisely the type of PC extremist article they were making fun of!

      • Jacob says:

        Jimmy Fallon is for FUN! You’re overthinking this, it’s not like he interviewed David Duke or anything!

        Besides, he’s interviewing Hillary Clinton next Monday! It would be biased and unfair to interview 1 candidate but not the other, Fallon has too much dignity for that! He really is the best late-night host on TV in terms of comedy. John Oliver has gotten stale the past few months, Samantha Bee is unevenly clever and repetitive, and Colbert is a smug idiot. Kimmel’s probably a better interviewer than Fallon, yet Fallon’s COMEDIC matierial is always so consistently funny.

        “Who wouldn’t Fallon interview with such fawning, giggly acceptance?” Okay, so here’s a brief list off the top of my head scum Jimmy Fallon would NEVER interview today, even though these all should be, and I believe are obvious to any SANE human being:

        George Zimmerman

        Dick Cheney (I’m pretty sure)

        Lance Armstrong

        Alex Jones

        David F**KING Duke

        John Hinckley Jr. (Boring guest, would be awkward and pointless having him on. Trump’s at least good for a laugh or two.)

        BORING Mike Pence (Unless he actually becomes VP, same with Tim Kaine)

        Milo Yiannopoulos (NO apologies if name is misspelled)

        Those are some people Jimmy Fallon would NEVER have on his Tonight Show. His show is and has never about witty or clever political commentary, and I’m genuinely sorry if you completely misinterpreted the whole point of his show. He is always good for a good old laugh. Trump is, to quote Seth Meyers, “A clown. A dangerous clown, a clown with a knife. But he’s still a clown.” ;)

  28. Jane Smith says:

    Entertainers are supposed to entertain, not be at the forefront of political debate. Comedians are supposed to be funny. Fallon has made fun of Trump many times on his show, so why do libs get so bent out of shape if he has him on for entertainment and treats him like the guest that he is rather than being a nasty jerk. You libs are such a miserable lot- loosen up and laugh once in a while will ya?!

  29. anonymous european says:

    I’m really sorry for your country and I really strong believe that not all Americans can be so low….
    Guys the world is watching you! Please don’t do it to yourself… I can Imagine that with both candidates the option is not perfect but keep in mind that you did this all yourself! Very sad moment for this beautiful country…

    • BillUSA says:

      I agree. Our country has become nothing more than a handout stand for people who think the United States is a big playground. People are irresponsible, vain, selfish and care not for our nation.

  30. spike says:

    Hey Soraya, what a putz. stop editorializing!!!! you’re so far from a reporter you might as well be on Mars. Trump trumps you! and there’s nothing you can about it except watch him get elected in November.

  31. RTF372 says:

    Fallon was always a douche.

  32. David says:

    Since when did Jimmy Fallon become 60 minutes ? Get over it … next ….

  33. Frank A. says:

    I have been boycotting the show even before the Trump fail. His namby pambyness has always been nauseating. I do watch Seth Meyers after I’ve enjoyed watched Stephen Colbert on CBS.

  34. Jim says:

    Ah yes. The unfettered hatred of the left, the return to yellow-journalism and the elitist who thinks that the 45% of Americans who support Trump are somehow a fringe while the 46% of Hillery supporters are the “main-stream”. This writers not only a failure at statistics, but at reality. Sad.

  35. Steven S. says:

    The problem for Fallon is that I now don’t respect him as a human being. I’m not going to “boycott” the show, but I’ve lost any interest in ever watching it again.

  36. Robert C Michaels says:

    Let us not forget what role NBC-TV played in the aggrandizement of “the Gipper” in his run-up to the White House, nurturing him as the commercial spokesman for GE and semi-official mouthpiece for corporate messaging to GE employees world-wide. Reagan’s first mandate at the White House was to unravel the (anti-trust-) mandated “firewall” separation of GE from its broadcast networks and stations, which then led to the consolidation of broadcast ownership. The Trump-meister is GE’s new gip! Nurtured at NBC, and aggrandized as a ruthless boss, President Trump will quickly allow consolidation of media ownership across all platforms and possibly end the digital age as we know it. Corporations will control the bandwidth spigot, and the prices charged for each tier – same as drug tiers within Medicare and the ACA. He belongs to GE/NBC, and they will be rewarded along with others for their elevation of a mediocre real estate magnate into “leader of the free world.”

    • we are Pepe says:

      lol good one grandpa!

      • GE hasn’t owned NBC since 2011

      • Jay Kareem says:

        so i see: bob ross, joan, and jane mcnicol glover, and patrick starr and dorothy [mr. cat] and juli lang, et. al—-So all of YOU must definitely hate me too? [cuz i am a black person]. also, to the person who signs in as: “we are Pepe”, you just took off your sheet completely and seem ready to burn that cross right now. you just don’t care WHO knows what you really are. LOL so, for all of your sakes, i am praying fervently that trump will become YOUR president just like i prayed that bush would win once i saw who was really fighting for him to become president. well, you got your BUSH and all the travail that came along with him. see that you’re still suffering too because of the financial abyss that bush et al plunged alla you into. so i pray that now you get trump too. can’t wait. cuz YOU do deserve him and all that he is going to do TO and FOR this country. just can’t wait.

  37. Pat says:

    I see a lot of hate and intolerance coming from these postings.

  38. Tom says:

    Fallon is 100% empty inside, there’s nothing human.

  39. Joan says:

    Sounds like a liberal writer injecting her own opinions on her politics.

  40. Pat says:

    Jimmy Fallon is a TV show host. He needs to be nice to all his guests. Besides Trump is so likable specially in person that is hard even for him to resist, even when we all know Jimmy is a democrat.

  41. John Th says:

    Worst. Candidate. Ever.

  42. Jane McNicol Glover says:

    What a mean spirited article, which misses the entire point of what Jimmy Fallon is about. I am by no means a Trump supporter but I respect Jimmy Fallon for his non-agenda and welcoming approach to ALL his guests. They ALL get a playful mocking and ALL get acceptance. What you find so abhorent is just good manners. By doing this, Jimmy Fallon exposes and highlights the differences of candidates who are put in a vulnerable position of having to show themselves as non political human beings. Jimmy Fallon then trusts that his audience are intelligent enough to figure it out for themselves without being told to think against a specific agenda. Also, this is an entertainment show, with no obligation to be political. Something a publication called Variety should understand. The world needs more of this kind of positive entertainment, rather than the sensationalized negativity this reporter seems to be asking for.

    • Bounder88 says:

      Putting on rosy glasses and doing nothing but skipping through the tulips exactly the same way with every guest is called shallow, not entertaining. Carson wouldn’t have done that. Letterman sure as Hell wouldn’t have done that, nor would Colbert. This is entertainment for adolescents.

  43. Mary McGlaughlin says:

    Jimmy Fallon has stooped to a new low. How can he possibly treat Trump as a “normal” candidate?
    He legitimized Trump. Very disappointing!

  44. Rachel McDonnell says:

    This hits the nail on the head. Seth Meyers has emerged as the hilarious, sharp and smart late night host. Jimmy Fallon has taken to laughing uproariously at all his guests without discrimination. It’s entertainment light.

  45. bella says:

    Disappointing to see Fallon succumb to this level. No true comedian would be this nice to an instigator of hatred. Sad. Fallon lost his comedic chops.

  46. Chris O says:

    Will he be having proud supporter David Duke on?

  47. lori says:

    In a world full of hate, judgment, and seriously sobering life events, it was REFRESHING to me.

  48. kenfurman46 says:

    Fallon- so Adolf.nice to see you
    Again. Mind if I stroke your funny little
    Stash!
    Adolf – No, stroke away, degenerate Irish guy.

  49. Bounder88 says:

    Jimmy Fallon has always come across as that kid in high school who would do anything to be popular with the “in crowd”. He is so afraid of someone not liking him that he would be a subservient clown to just about anyone as long and they were famous. Seriously, Jimmy, you can be polite to someone without kissing their ………ring.

  50. Nobody can argue that the media has drastically helped to shape the agendas that this country has pushed towards the last 50 years. So it doesn’t make sense when Hillary or Obama appear on television and are either praised for a fun, witty, humorous interview or there is backlash towards the host for being too hard on them. The media is always saying, in a nutshell, “It’s different with Hillary and Obama because their agendas are good! So we welcome humor. But Trump is a bad bad man and to joke with him is unacceptable” Well then it begs the question, what and who is in authority to define what is “bad” for us and our country? Many of us view pro-choice as an abomination and a crime against human nature. Many of us view the current use of embryonic stem cell research as unethical. Many of us view homosexuality as an inherently grotesque way of life. Now the liberals of America cry out “bigot!”, “hateful!”, “close minded!” after saying this, but that doesn’t matter. The point is, who is defining what the standard of what’s acceptable and what is not? The media, inarguably, is a huge driving force in shoving that down our throats. So if many people find a playful interview with Hillary repulsive (and many in fact do), where’s the media when it comes to covering people’s distaste with that? Nowhere, why? Because it doesn’t fit into their social agenda about what is good and what isn’t good for us. So the media can cry over the fact that Fallon was too easy on Trump because he’s a xenophobe, a homophobe, and just an overall dastardly bad man. But don’t assume that the rest of us in this country also feel the same. ” Fallon is not required to pretend as if Donald Trump is a normal candidate for president. He is choosing to, and that is where the true disappointment of last night’s interview arises.” In other words, Fallon had a “choice” to be hard on him and didn’t. But ultimately that means that Fallon had the choice and didn’t choose in favor of what the media wanted, thereby meaning Fallon actually had no choice to begin with. “You had a choice, but we are mad you didn’t choose what we wanted.” Doesn’t that negate a choice to begin with?

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