But reaction to the segment as expressed on social media was decidedly mixed. Fallon was criticized for a lack of substance in questioning the GOP presidential candidate at a time when his positions on issues ranging from immigration to international trade are increasingly polarizing to voters. The viral moment from Thursday’s episode was the host messing up Trump’s hair.
“Tonight Show” on Thursday delivered a 2.6 rating/7 share in Nielsen’s 56 overnight metered markets, which cover about 70% of U.S. TV households. NBC said that was “Tonight’s” best showing on a Thursday since Obama’s appearance on June 9.
Thursday’s rating was on par with the 2.5 overnight rating generated by Trump’s prior “Tonight Show” appearance on Jan. 11, but far lower than the bounce delivered with his visit on Sept. 11, 2015. That appearance, coming as Trump began to gain national momentum, generated a 3.6 rating, or about 4.5 million viewers.
Cultural commentators in the Atlantic, Esquire and Rolling Stone, among others, weighed in Friday with stories critical of Fallon’s handling of the interview. Twitter was buzzing with critiques, although other fans noted that the interview was in keeping with Fallon’s long-established breezy style.
The scrutiny for Fallon comes a week after “Today” anchor Matt Lauer was hammered by critics for his questioning of Trump and Hillary Clinton in a primetime candidates forum.