Jimmy Fallon’s late-night reign was interrupted in recent months. While his competitors are using their shows as a platform to openly oppose President Donald Trump’s policies, Fallon has taken a back seat, and viewers seem to be taking note.
“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” which was once miles ahead of its competition in ratings, has fallen behind “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” in the past few weeks.
The dip could possibly be tied to Trump’s now-infamous appearance on “The Tonight Show” last September. Fallon strayed away from hard-hitting questions for the then-Republican presidential nominee, instead ruffling the candidate’s hair. Months later, Fallon is finally opening up about that polarizing moment.
“I didn’t do it to humanize him,” Fallon said in an interview with The New York Times. “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, a self-proclaimed people pleaser, has set an apolitical tone for his show in the wake of Trump’s presidency. While he doesn’t stray away from monologue digs and satirical sketches at the president’s expense, he just about draws the line there.
However, Fallon didn’t address the backlash directly on air, an action he admits he now regrets.
“They have a right to be mad,” Fallon said in an earlier interview with the Times. “If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.”
After that September interview was broadcast, viewers quickly took to the internet to criticize his seeming affection and seal of approval. Variety TV critic Sonia Saraiya questioned Fallon’s credibility, asking, “Who wouldn’t Fallon interview with such fawning, giggly acceptance? Where would he draw the line?”
Even “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at the exchange when Fallon and Tina Fey came on “Weekend Update” before the November election to play two undecided voters from Pennsylvania.
“Whatever. You love Trump,” qipped Fey in the sketch.
“I don’t love Trump,” Fallon’s character refuted.
“Yeah, well stop acting like you do,” Fey jabbed back. “Everyone thinks you love Trump. You’re always like, ‘Oh, his hair is real, you know?'”